The Hill's Morning Report — Will Trump strike a deal with Chuck and Nancy?




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report and happy Tuesday! 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 interviews with Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassHouse vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King House Democrats offer measures to censure Steve King Congressional Black Caucus calls for Steve King to be removed from committees MORE (D-Calif.), the incoming chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Dr. Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.


A possible partial government shutdown is only 10 days away...

Democratic leaders are headed to the White House today for negotiations with President TrumpDonald John TrumpJuan Williams: AOC fever shows appetite for new politics Judd Gregg: Sauntering into anarchy Civil rights group marks MLK Day with call for 'Trump card' national ID MORE, as the two sides seek a spending agreement before the Dec. 21 deadline.

The endgame is unclear, and Trump’s controversial border wall is at the center of it.

Democrats, who will have a majority in the House next month, are under pressure not to give the president any money for a wall.

Trump is demanding a $5 billion down payment and threatening to veto any bill that falls short of that mark.

The Senate’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bill includes $1.6 billion for border security, leaving the parties billions of dollars apart.

The Hill: Trump, Democrats begin divisive wall negotiations.

The Associated Press: Trump to meet with Democrats about border wall, shutdown.

Don’t expect an agreement to come out of today’s meeting between Trump, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerProtecting our judiciary must be a priority in the 116th Congress Baldwin's Trump plays 'Deal or No Deal' with shutdown on 'Saturday Night Live' Sunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Fox’s Wallace to Pence: Is government shutdown all about ‘leverage?' Former House Republican: Trump will lose the presidency if he backs away from border security MORE (D-Calif.), but the tone of this first round of negotiations may determine whether they can bridge the divide before the holidays.

In a joint statement released late Monday night, Schumer and Pelosi said Republicans would bear the blame for a shutdown.

“Republicans still control the House, the Senate, and the White House, and they have the power to keep government open. Our country cannot afford a Trump Shutdown, especially at this time of economic uncertainty. This holiday season, the president knows full well that his wall proposal does not have the votes to pass the House and Senate, and should not be an obstacle to a bipartisan agreement.”

Democrats lost the shutdown fight earlier this year.

This time around, Democrats would be just as happy to kick the wall fight to 2019, when they’ll control the House.

Democratic leaders have lined up behind a package that would address six of the seven unresolved appropriations bills, with a continuing resolution to fund DHS, effectively forcing another border spending fight next year.

And the spending fight could get even more complicated in the coming days.

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynTrump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  Texas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s attorney general pick passes first test MORE (R-Texas) said Monday there could be a “path” to linking a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill to a year-end spending bill (The Hill).

The criminal justice reform bill has split Senate Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Former House Republican: Trump will lose the presidency if he backs away from border security Pence quotes MLK in pitch for Trump's immigration proposal MORE (R-Ky.) has indicated he will not have time to bring it up for a vote during the lame-duck session, saying the Senate needs to focus on confirming Trump’s judicial nominees for the rest of the year.

Many lawmakers view the bill as a rare bipartisan achievement and an opportunity to end this Congress on a high note.

The Hill: GOP fights piling up for McConnell.

The criminal justice reform bill has the backing of the White House. Last night, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback Trump expected to pitch immigration deal to end funding stalemate The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World MORE made a rare media appearance, telling Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity that he’s optimistic the bill will be passed before Christmas.

“The president’s built an amazing bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans, and we’re very close right now. And hopefully this will get to the floor and we’ll be able to have a big bipartisan celebration before Christmas.”

More from Capitol Hill … Agriculture Committee chairmen Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsPompeo taking meeting about running for Kansas Senate seat: report Pompeo planning to meet with Pat Roberts amid 2020 Senate speculation Budowsky: Warning to Senate Republicans MORE (R-Kan.) and ranking members Rep. Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonAbortion foes march into divided Washington Progressives to target Dem reps in 2020 primary fights GOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote MORE (D-Minn.) and Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSenate Dems raise concerns about shutdown's impact on assistance to taxpayers Durbin signals he will run for reelection Coal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee MORE (D-Mich.) on Monday released the text of the 2018 farm bill conference report for action this week ...GOP lawmakers call for autopsy on ‘historic’ losses (The Hill) … Fractious GOP vows to unify in House minority (The Hill) … Insurgent Dems amplify push for term limits on party leaders (The Hill) … K Street works to court minority lawmakers (The Hill).




WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Three days after tweeting that his second White House chief of staff, John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, would leave at the end of the year, Trump continued to search for Kelly’s successor. Nick Ayers, the president’s first choice for the job, turned him down and tweeted his decision to pursue the next step in his political career in Georgia, along with his family.

The Washington Post: `There was no Plan B’

The New York Times: Trump tried to arrange for Ayers to fire Kelly.

In seeking to bring the 36-year-old Ayers into the Oval Office, Trump signaled a desire for political skills in his next chief to support his reelection bid and to help battle the special counsel’s Russia probe, plus a storm of investigations House Democrats have in mind for next year.

One possible alternative pick, Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsOvernight Health Care: Trump vows to veto bills expanding abortion rights | Abortion foes march into divided Washington | Medicaid work requirements approved in Arizona Abortion foes march into divided Washington McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader MORE (R-N.C.), was willing to say publicly on Monday that he covets what’s often described as the toughest job in Washington (The Hill).

The conservative chairman of the House Freedom Caucus is an eager advocate for Trump’s reelection who often shares his advice with the president. Meadows supports Trump’s conclusion that the Russia probe being conducted by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE is a “witch hunt” and that former Justice Department officials harbored political biases in favor of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination O'Rourke’s strategy: Show Americans the real Beto Conservatives pound BuzzFeed, media over Cohen report MORE and against Trump as he entered office. Meadows, of course, knows many House members on both sides of the aisle, but he does not have executive branch experience in Washington.



Perspectives on personnel changes:

Monica Hesse: John Kelly and the myth of the ‘adult in the room’

Niall Stanage: Ayers decision casts harsh light on Trump.

Matthew J. Dickinson: The surprisingly normal reason Trump wants a new chief of staff

Jonathan Allen: Trump needs a chief of staff for the `worst of times’

Caroline Fredrickson: Will William Barr be Trump’s Roy Cohn?


Environmental Protection Agency water rule: The administration is expected today to unveil a plan that would weaken federal clean water rules designed to protect millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams nationwide from pesticide runoff and other pollutants. The rule is expected to appear in the Federal Register and is intended to replace an Obama-era regulation known as Waters of the United States (The New York Times).

Troops at the border: About 2,200 of the active duty service members sent by Trump to the border with Mexico before the midterm elections will be pulled out before the holidays and sent elsewhere, officials said on Monday. The deployments to border states to back Customs and Border Protection agents were viewed by Trump critics as a political stunt and waste of military resources. The estimated price tag was at least $210 million, according to a report sent to Congress in November (The Associated Press).

Defense Department funding: A week after calling a $716 billion defense budget “crazy,” Trump is poised to approve a Pentagon budget for fiscal 2020 that is almost 5 percent higher. The president gave a green light to Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisKerry rips Trump’s ‘pull-out, walk-away presidency’ Macron: US 'retreat from Syria' won't change mission to eradicate ISIS Poll: Most Americans want US troops in Syria MORE to submit a $750 billion budget proposal (Politico).

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Kathy Kraninger, the newly confirmed director of the independent agency created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law eight years ago, has begun a five-year term that comes with significant executive power. Sylvan Lane reports what to watch during her tenure.


INVESTIGATIONS: The president on Monday defended payments made by his former attorney Michael Cohen to bury stories from two women who claim to have had extramarital affairs with Trump.

Over Twitter, Trump described the payments as legal, “private transactions” that are being criminalized by his adversaries and leveraged by Cohen, who is cooperating with prosecutors in hopes of receiving a reduced sentence.





The Associated Press: Where the Russia investigation stands.

Over the weekend, the Manhattan district attorney’s office referred to the president as “Individual-1” in a sentencing memo for Cohen.

Cohen has pleaded guilty to a range of crimes pertaining to his personal business endeavors. But he’s also pleaded guilty to a campaign finance violation for arranging election year payments aimed at keeping adult-film star Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, from talking about affairs they say they had with Trump.

Cohen told prosecutors in the Southern District of New York that Trump instructed him to make the payments. Prosecutors there are pursuing the matter as a campaign finance violation, arguing that the payments were made to help get Trump elected and therefore exceed the maximum donations allowed under law.

This is a legal grey area. While Cohen pleaded guilty to the campaign finance charge, the president would vigorously fight back, arguing that there are many other reasons why he wouldn’t want news of the alleged affairs to get out.

Democrats are already talking about impeaching or jailing Trump for arranging the payments (The Associated Press).

The New York Times writes:

Though it is rare to charge a politician with campaign-finance crimes over hush-money payments to mistresses, one clear precedent stands out: the Justice Department’s prosecution in 2012 of John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator and 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee, over similar payments to hide a pregnant mistress while he was running for president in 2008. … [But] that case ended with a mistrial on five charges and an acquittal on one.”

Greg Sargent: Trump’s rage tweets expose the depth of his corruption.

Mark Penn: Cohen’s plea deal concocted by prosecutors to snare Trump.

More from the investigations front … Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortBuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president Dems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell The case for Russia sanctions MORE will be in court today, where a federal judge will hear arguments about whether he violated a plea deal by lying to Mueller’s team (The Hill) … Alleged Russian agent Maria Butina has reached a plea deal and will cooperate with prosecutors in a case involving the Kremlin’s efforts to infiltrate the National Rifle Association (ABC News) … The pressure is on Congress to secure the 2020 presidential race from foreign cyberattacks (The Hill).

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 Senate has long stood in defense of Democracy, and must again, seven paragraphs written by 44 former U.S. senators from both parties in an open letter to Senate colleagues, and as opinion contributors to The Washington Post. “We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld.”

Theresa May chooses the lesser of two humiliations, by Andrew Grice, The Independent.


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of Justin Muzinich to be deputy secretary of Treasury, as well as Jonathan Kobes to be a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The Senate may also consider a war powers resolution dealing with Yemen.

The House convenes at 10 a.m. to consider 13 bills under suspension of the rules. Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAEI names Robert Doar as new president GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King MORE (R-Wis.) will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. … Google CEO Sundar Pichai will testify at 10 a.m. before the House Judiciary Committee on "Transparency and Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices." … Reps. Mark PocanMark William PocanDems offer measure to raise minimum wage to per hour House Dems to introduce minimum wage bill Congress poised to push back at Trump on Saudi Arabia, Syria MORE (D-Wis.) and Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell Women's March plans 'Medicare for All' day of lobbying in DC MoveOn leaders stepping down before 2020 election MORE (D-Wash.), the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, will hold a media availability at 1:15 p.m.

The president meets with Schumer and Pelosi at 11:30 a.m., joined by the vice president. He will sign the “Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018” at 3:45 p.m.

Pence will attend the Senate GOP policy luncheon in the Capitol at 12:45 p.m.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the U.S. producer price index report for November at 8:30 a.m.

Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan at 9 a.m. kicks off a ministerial meeting about counterterrorism cooperation with senior officials from Argentina, the Bahamas, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Trinidad and Tobago. They will discuss threats posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, al Qaeda and Hezbollah. Senior counterterrorism and security officials from the departments of Justice, Treasury, Homeland Security, and the U.S. intelligence community will participate.

First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpOvernight Defense: Trump says he won't declare emergency 'so fast' | Shutdown on track to become longest ever | Military begins withdrawing equipment from Syria | Bolton taps new deputy Bolton names replacement for deputy who clashed with first lady The Hill's Morning Report — Groundhog Day: Negotiations implode as shutdown reaches 20 days MORE participates in the annual Toys for Tots toy drive at noon at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, hosted by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

The National Immigrant Integration Conference concludes a three-day event today about the state of immigrant and refugee integration in America at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Va., with speakers including Reps. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), Grace MengGrace Meng'Remain in Mexico' is another brick in Trump’s invisible wall The Hill's Morning Report — Will Trump strike a deal with Chuck and Nancy? Wife of missing ex-Interpol chief hires lawyers to find him MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroDems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell Dems demand answers following explosive new Cohen report Intel Dem: Trump must resign or be impeached if Cohen report is true MORE (D-Texas), Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloEx-GOP Rep. Ryan Costello joins group pushing carbon tax Hispanic Caucus boasts record membership in new Congress Chuck Todd says his show is 'not going to give time to climate deniers' MORE (R-Fla.), and Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president More oversight of America’s international media networks a good idea Pro-Israel organizations should finally seek payback against Iran deal Dems MORE (D-N.J.). The program begins at 8:30 a.m.


> United Kingdom - Brexit: Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday delayed a parliamentary vote scheduled today on Great Britain’s planned exit in March from the European Union, thrusting Brexit and perhaps May’s tenure into the unknown (Reuters). … Brexit explained (The Associated Press).

> Iran: A senior Revolutionary Guards commander said Iran had recently carried out a ballistic missile test but he did not specify the type of missile, according to a Fars News report today (Reuters). “The reaction of the Americans shows that this test was very important for them and that’s why they were shouting,” said Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ airspace division.

> France: President Emmanuel Macron, during a televised national address on Monday, pledged to cut taxes for pensioners and raise the minimum wage in January but refused to reinstate a wealth tax, as Macron responded after a month of deliberations to a wave of protests that have challenged his authority (Reuters). The unrest in France triggered concessions from the president, but also negative economic consequences there (The New York Times).

> Artificial Intelligence: Experts interviewed as part of a research study mostly have a sunny outlook about the impact of artificial intelligence over the next decade. Their primary concerns about the emerging technology center around what it will mean for human productivity and free will (Pew Research).


And finally … Holiday wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery began as gravesite tributes in 1992 and continue this year with “Wreaths Across America” … Donated wreaths will be placed at gravesites at the national cemetery in Virginia on Dec. 15, as part of National Wreaths Across America Day (The Associated Press).

Volunteers (and wreaths) are still needed to decorate veterans’ headstones. Those who want to assist on Saturday or would like to sponsor a wreath can find information here (WTOP) and HERE.