The Hill's Morning Report — Washington returns to week of high-stakes drama




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report and happy Monday! Our newsletter 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 an interview with Brian Hastings, chief patrol agent for the U.S. Border Patrol, who will discuss the migrant caravan. And best-selling author Dr. Robert Pearl stops by to talk about what divided government means for health care.


President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE and lawmakers face a pivotal week ahead that will have ramifications for the Republican Senate majority, the Democratic majority in the House and the global economy.

Here’s what’s on the docket:

> Trump will hold two campaign rallies in Mississippi today — one in Tupelo, the birthplace of recent Medal of Freedom recipient Elvis Presley, and another in Biloxi — in an effort to pull Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) across the finish line against Democrat Mike Espy in the final Senate contest of the 2018 midterm election cycle.

If Hyde-Smith triumphs in the runoff on Tuesday, she’ll give the Republicans a 53-47 majority in the Senate next year, up from their narrow 51-49 majority.

The race shouldn’t be close — Trump carried the state by nearly 19 points in 2016 and Mississippi hasn’t elected a Democratic senator in more than 35 years.

But the contest between Hyde-Smith and Espy, an African-American, has reopened old racial wounds in the state.

Hyde-Smith has apologized for her puzzling remarks about attending a “public hanging,” but the news media has since been digging into her past and revealing instances in which she’s posed with Confederate paraphernalia and defended aspects of the state’s racist history.

CNN: Hyde-Smith pushed resolution praising Confederate soldier’s effort to “defend his homeland.”

Jackson Free Press: Hyde-Smith attended all-white “Seg Academy” to avoid integration.

The mounting controversies have contributed to the impression that Espy might have a shot at a monumental upset.

Still, Hyde-Smith should benefit from Trump’s star wattage a day ahead of the vote. The White House is leaving nothing to chance – Vice President Pence will join Trump for the rally in Biloxi.

In the Nov. 6 election, Hyde-Smith took 42 percent, Espy 41 percent and Republican Chris McDaniel 17 percent. Hyde-Smith is banking on picking up McDaniel’s portion of the vote to propel her to victory, although one recent poll found Hyde-Smith with only a 5 point lead (The New York Times).

The Hill: Dems target another Senate seat in the Deep South.

The New York Times: Democrats risk speaking boldly and alienating white, rural voters in the South.

> House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Democrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul MORE (D-Calif.) appears to be moving inexorably toward being the next Speaker when Democrats take the majority in January.

The first test of Pelosi’s political strength will come Wednesday, when Democrats hold a closed-caucus leadership vote. There, the veteran lawmaker is expected to attain a simple majority to become the party’s nominee for Speaker.

The Associated Press: Democrats shun idea of Pelosi floor fight.

The Hill: Problem Solvers Dems not ready to support Pelosi.

The floor vote will take place in January, when she’ll need a majority of the entire House, or 218 votes. That will be a heavier lift, although Pelosi has been cutting deals with one-time detractors and earning support from once-skeptical incoming Democrats, steadily draining the Speaker’s race of any remaining drama.

The Wall Street Journal: The secret of Pelosi’s success.

> Trump heads to Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the end of the week for the Group of 20 summit. There, the president will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China.

Investors will be watching closely. Wall Street is hoping Trump and Xi will come to an agreement to end the tariff tit-for-tat that has injected uncertainty, pessimism and volatility into the markets.

An agreement — or a glimmer of a potential cease-fire — would be welcome news to investors amid fears of a global economic slowdown and the Federal Reserve’s expected interest rate hike next month.


INTERNATIONAL: The weekend was marked by significant foreign policy headlines in North America, the Middle East, Russia and Europe. 

Mexico: U.S. authorities shut down a port of entry and used tear gas against migrants who sought to cross the border at Tijuana, Mexico (NBC News). Mexico is ramping up security after the skirmish and says it will deport those who tried to breach a barrier at the border (The Associated Press) … Mexico’s incoming government said on Sunday that no deal has been reached with the U.S. on the treatment of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. from Mexico (Bloomberg). The new government refuted reporting by The Washington Post on Saturday that the two countries reached an agreement in principle to make asylum seekers wait on the Mexico side of the border while requests are processed in the United States (The Washington Post). Pence will attend the inauguration of President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Dec. 1.

Reuters TV: Chaos and confusion at the border.

Brexit: The European Union sealed a divorce deal with Great Britain on Sunday as British Prime Minister Theresa May faced a hard sell at home (The Associated Press). Reuters published highlights of the EU leaders’ comments HERE.



Iran: President Hassan Rouhani called on Muslims worldwide on Saturday to unite against the United States instead of “rolling out red carpets for criminals.” Submitting to the West and the United States would be “treason against our religion,” he told them (Reuters).

> Secretary Pompeo, during his interview on Sunday, said the Trump administration is trying to persuade the Iranian people that the United States re-imposed economic sanctions on Tehran as a way to “protect” the Iranian people.

“We’re convinced that the Iranian people don’t want what it is their leaders are bringing them,” he told a Kansas news outlet (State Department transcript).

Russia - Crimea: *** BREAKING *** NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg assured Ukraine of NATO’s support for its “territorial integrity and sovereignty, including its full navigational rights in its territorial waters under international law” and called for an emergency international meeting today. ... Russia seized three Ukrainian naval ships off the coast of Russia-annexed Crimea on Sunday after opening fire on the vessels and wounding several sailors (Reuters). Early on Monday, Russia’s FSB security service confirmed it used weapons to force the ships to halt, asserting they entered Russian territorial waters illegally (Reuters).



France: Demonstrators in Paris aimed their ire at French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday (The Guardian). French police fired tear gas at 30,000 anti-Macron protesters in Paris who expressed anger about rising fuel taxes and economic policies (The Associated Press).

Saudi Arabia: Crown Prince Mohammed, suspected by global intelligence experts of playing a part in the killing of Khashoggi on Oct. 2, began an Arab-region friendship tour in Bahrain, the first such travel he’s made since the journalist’s death (Al Jazeera).


CONGRESS: Incoming New York House democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is storming Washington. But after several weeks, some colleagues grouse they’d rather see the 29-year-old become a workhorse rather than a show horse (The Hill). … Ocasio-Cortez and incoming Democratic freshman members aim to shape the party as it takes control of the House in January (The Washington Post).




Federal spending: Trump is demanding action to reduce federal spending while also pushing for new deficit spending, confounding his aides (The Washington Post). … What to watch for as Congress braces for another shutdown fight (The Hill). … The president demands funding for his favored wall as part of a border-security spending measure (The Hill). … The White House says congressional Democrats have to work with Trump, not the other way around (The Hill).


Taxes: Business groups brace for Democrats in Congress to try to raise corporate taxes a year after GOP lawmakers lowered them (The Hill).


Punishing Saudi Arabia: Senate Republicans are distancing themselves from the White House over intelligence assessments and evidence gathered about the killing last month of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The information could determine Saudi sanctions proposed by U.S. lawmakers following Trump’s concession that the Saudi royal family may indeed have been involved, despite its denials, as well as his announcement that there will be no U.S. sanctions leveled against the Middle East ally, regardless of any evidence (The Hill).

"[Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] contributed to murdering somebody abroad, and it is not strength to sort of mumble past that. Strength is telling the truth even when it’s hard." — Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseManufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank The Hill's Morning Report - Trump ousts Bolton; GOP exhales after win in NC Trump endorses Sasse in 2020 race MORE (R-Neb.) (The Hill)

"Intelligence I’ve seen suggests that this was ordered by the crown prince."   Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Election security looms over funding talks | Antitrust enforcers in turf war | Facebook details new oversight board | Apple fights EU tax bill Antitrust enforcers in turf war over Big Tech Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan MORE (R-Utah) (The Hill).

“Different members of the Senate will have different views. We’re happy to consider them, and the president said if they bring legislation, he’d be happy to take a look at it, and if it makes sense, if it furthers the interests of America … then the president will be happy to support it.”  — Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran Trump doubles down on Graham: 'How did going into Iraq work out?' MORE, interview with KFDI News of Kansas


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION:  The Trump administration quietly released the government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment on Friday, which contradicts many of Trump’s claims about climate change.

From The Associated Press: “It says warming-charged extremes ‘have already become more frequent, intense, widespread or of long duration.’ The report notes the last few years have smashed U.S. records for damaging weather, costing nearly $400 billion since 2015.”

The Hill: Five takeaways from the federal climate change report.

> Trump spent the weekend at Mar-a-Lago conducting interviews for positions within his Cabinet and administration.

It’s unclear what jobs the president is looking to fill, but chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE did not travel with the president to Florida and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenDHS officials called lawmaker visit to migrant detention facility a 'Hill stunt' White House fires DHS general counsel Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE is among those believed to be working on borrowed time.

Trump dismissed a report that he’s grown frustrated with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinLawmakers run into major speed bumps on spending bills The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Graham clash over Iran policy Liz Cheney calls for 'proportional military response' against Iran MORE (Reuters). Mnuchin told The Hill in September that he wants to remain as Treasury secretary through 2020 and perhaps beyond, “if the president wants me here for the second term.”



More from the White House and Trump administration … A federal judge ruled that former Trump campaign adviser George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosUS attorney recommends moving forward with charges against McCabe after DOJ rejects his appeal 10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall Flynn, Papadopoulos to speak at event preparing 'social media warriors' for 'digital civil war' MORE must report to prison on Monday (The Washington Post) … Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has ample tools to disrupt special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation MORE’s probe (The Hill) … The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to its transgender military ban (The Hill).

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More questions than answers in too many stories about Trump
, by Sharyl Attkisson, opinion contributor, The Hill.

Trump waves the white flag, fails to protect American people from climate change, by Elizabeth Gore, opinion contributor, The Hill.


The House returns to work on Tuesday following the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. today to resume consideration of the nomination of Stephen Alexander Vaden to be general counsel of the Department of Agriculture. A floor vote is scheduled this evening.

The president has lunch with Vice President Pence. Trump holds a roundtable in Gulfport, Miss., to discuss criminal justice reform legislation. He will headline two rallies in Mississippi (in Tupelo and Biloxi) this evening to try to boost the fortunes of Hyde-Smith prior to Tuesday’s Senate runoff election.

The vice president will have lunch with Trump and speak at the Hidden Heroes third annual national convention held at the Capital Hilton in Washington at 3:45 p.m. Later, the vice president will travel to Gulfport, Miss., to join the president’s roundtable and then join the president’s campaign rally held at Biloxi’s Mississippi Coast Coliseum this evening.

Secretary Pompeo meets with Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Jose Valencia Amores this morning at the State Department. He meets with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci this afternoon.

The Hill’s newsmaker event "Preparing for a Treatment: Alzheimer's Diagnosis and Care" on Nov. 28 features Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDefense bill talks set to start amid wall fight Kennedy to challenge Markey in Senate primary Overnight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists MORE (D-Mass.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTillis trails Democratic Senate challenger by 2 points: poll Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-N.C.). Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack talks with lawmakers and experts about groundbreaking advancements in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Registration is HERE.



> Deadly devices: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that more than 1.7 million injuries and nearly 83,000 deaths suspected of being linked to medical devices were reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over a 10-year period (The Associated Press). More than 250 journalists in 36 countries representing more than 50 media organizations, including The Associated Press, spent nearly a year examining the safety of medical devices, such as how they are tested, approved and monitored by regulatory agencies.

> Opioid deaths drop in Dayton, Ohio: The city’s overdose death rate from opioids dropped more than 50 percent since 2017, and authorities are examining what has worked. One contributor: Medicaid expansion resulted in more access to treatment (The New York Times).

> Public transit: Get ready for the Washington Metro Yellow Line shutdown beginning today through Dec. 9 (WTOP).

> Bagels by hand: Follow along during a day in the life of Vermont’s “best” bagel maker, Lloyd Squires (warning: readers will be really hungry for a warm bagel after reading this) (Burlington Free Press).


And finally … It’s Cyber Monday, which over time has become an extension of Black Friday. Shoppers are expected to spend an estimated $7.8 billion on Cyber Monday — a record — to rev a strong holiday shopping season (Bloomberg). From travel to sports tickets and from children’s gadgets to charity, this day of online shopping inspires plenty of consumer tips:

TechRadar reviews all the Cyber Monday deals HERE. And CNET has a gift guide for today’s cyber shoppers HERE.

Amazon really, really wants your business, so there are tips for deals on a site that sells us everything (USA Today). And holiday buyers can support charities of their choice if they select their purchases through (Quartz).

If R&R is in your future, find the best travel deals on Cyber Monday with a few pointers (Travel & Leisure).

And through it all, law enforcement suggests how to foil the online Grinches, scammers and fraudsters: