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 BassCOVID-19 increases importance of implementing reforms to organ donation system Minority lawmakers gain unprecedented clout amid pandemic Hispanic leaders warn census could undercount minority communities amid pandemic 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 TrumpBiden slams Trump in new ad: 'The death toll is still rising.' 'The president is playing golf' Brazil surpasses Russia with second-highest coronavirus case count in the world Trump slams Sessions: 'You had no courage & ruined many lives' 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 SchumerTrump slams Sessions: 'You had no courage & ruined many lives' Senate Democrats call on Trump administration to let Planned Parenthood centers keep PPP loans States, companies set up their own COVID-19 legal shields MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump slams Sessions: 'You had no courage & ruined many lives' Lies, damned lies and the truth about Joe Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin: More COVID-19 congressional action ahead 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 CornynHillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting Lawmakers ask for briefings on Chinese targeting of coronavirus research Tensions flare over GOP's Obama probes 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 McConnellMemorial Day weekend deals latest economic blow to travel industry Senate Republicans call on DOJ to investigate Planned Parenthood loans On The Money: Jobless rate exceeds 20 percent in three states | Senate goes on break without passing small business loan fix | Biden pledges to not raise taxes on those making under 0K 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 tries to soothe anxious GOP senators Press: King Donald's goal - no checks, no balances Trump faces criticism over lack of national plan on coronavirus 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 RobertsThe age of handshakes may be over — so how to seal the deal now? Congress headed toward unemployment showdown Family Research Council endorses Roger Marshall in Kansas Senate primary MORE (R-Kan.) and ranking members Rep. Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonFrom farmers to grocery store clerks, thank you to all of our food system Group of House Democrats asks for 0 billion for testing The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Chef José Andrés says most political leaders today are not acting with urgency; Dems crafting 'Rooseveltian' relief package MORE (D-Minn.) and Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowBipartisan senators introduce bill to make changes to the Paycheck Protection Program Democrats press USDA on worker safety at meat processing plants Michigan Republican Senate candidate notes places 'I disagree with' Trump 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 MeadowsHillicon Valley: Trump threatens Michigan, Nevada over mail-in voting | Officials call for broadband expansion during pandemic | Democrats call for investigation into Uber-Grubhub deal Trump threatens to withhold Michigan, Nevada funding over mail-in voting Democrats launch probe into Trump's firing of State Department watchdog, Pompeo 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 (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE is a “witch hunt” and that former Justice Department officials harbored political biases in favor of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump escalates fight against mail-in voting Sunday shows preview: States begin to reopen even as some areas in US see case counts increase The Electoral College is not democratic — nor should it be 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 Mattis'Never Trump' Republicans: Fringe, or force to be reckoned with? Trump sending ally to Pentagon to vet officials' loyalty: report Pentagon watchdog unable to 'definitively' determine if White House influenced JEDI contract 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 ManafortCohen released from federal prison to home confinement due to coronavirus concerns Advocates call on states to release more inmates amid pandemic Michael Cohen to be moved to home confinement due to coronavirus concerns: report 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).

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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 RyanLobbying world John Ratcliffe is the right choice for director of national intelligence — and for America House Democrat calls for halt to lawmakers sleeping in their offices 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 PocanMerger moratorium takes center stage in antitrust debate Overnight Defense: Pentagon memo warns pandemic could go until summer 2021 | Watchdog finds Taliban violence is high despite US deal | Progressive Dems demand defense cuts Progressives demand defense budget cuts amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (D-Wis.) and Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalJayapal says progressives need to better coordinate to accomplish initiatives Jayapal explains the paycheck recovery bill House Progressive Caucus leader blasts mass unemployment as 'a policy choice' 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 TrumpTrump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin: More COVID-19 congressional action ahead 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 MengDe Blasio, John Cho, Rep. Grace Meng unite for event to fight racism against Asian Americans NY Democrats call for mortgage forgiveness in next coronavirus relief bill Hillicon Valley: Experts worry U.S. elections vulnerable due to COVID-19 | Report finds states need more federal election funds | Republican senators to introduce coronavirus-related privacy bill MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroMinority lawmakers gain unprecedented clout amid pandemic The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden leads Trump by 6 points in new poll Warren announces slate of endorsements including Wendy Davis and Cornyn challenger Hegar MORE (D-Texas), Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloTrump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy Republicans can't exploit the left's climate extremism without a better idea Progressive Latino group launches first incumbent protection campaign MORE (R-Fla.), and Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate panel approves Trump nominee under investigation Hillicon Valley: Trump threatens Michigan, Nevada over mail-in voting | Officials call for broadband expansion during pandemic | Democrats call for investigation into Uber-Grubhub deal Senate chairman schedules vote on Trump nominee under investigation 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.