The Hill's Morning Report - Trump speech was great theater but unlikely to change much




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report, and it’s Wednesday. Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Co-creators are Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger (CLICK HERE to subscribe!). On Twitter, you can find us at @joneasley and @asimendinger.


President TrumpDonald John TrumpSecret Service members who helped organize Pence Arizona trip test positive for COVID-19: report Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report Iran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report MORE used his State of the Union address to call for a new era of bipartisanship and compromise, but said he would not budge on a border wall even as Washington faces another potential shutdown in nine days over border security.

The Hill: Trump veers between comity, confrontation at raucous State of the Union.

The Memo: Six takeaways from the State of the Union.

Ringing in at just over one hour and 22 minutes, the president’s speech provoked some rare moments of comity and celebration among Republicans and Democrats in the House chamber.

But Trump spent the bulk of his time — 27 paragraphs’ worth of text — focused on his controversial immigration policies, underscoring the impasse lawmakers face as Washington recovers from the recent 35-day shutdown. Trump did not mention that record shutdown, which was massively unpopular with the public and cost him politically.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMilitary bases should not be renamed, we must move forward in the spirit of reconciliation Pelosi: Trump 'himself is a hoax' Women must continue to persist to rise as political leaders of America MORE (D-Calif.) motioned to her caucus to stifle their groans as Trump warned about the latest migrant caravan approaching the border. Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights The Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci 'aspirationally hopeful' of a vaccine by winter The Hill's Morning Report - Officials crack down as COVID-19 cases soar MORE (D-N.Y.), who filed the paperwork for her presidential exploratory committee last month, rolled their eyes as Trump praised Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.

The president announced that he is sending nearly 4,000 new troops to the border. He called illegal immigration “a moral issue” – a clear shot at Pelosi, who has called a border wall “amoral.” And he described illegal immigration as “an urgent national crisis,” a reminder that he may still declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress if he doesn’t get the funds he’s demanding for a border wall.

“In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall, but the proper wall never got built. I'll get it built.” — Trump

“The idea of declaring a nonexistent state of emergency on the border… to pay for the wall is not only immoral, it is illegal.  We are ready to reject this foolish proposal in court the moment it touches the ground.” — California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraTrump's use of Pentagon funds for US-Mexico border wall illegal, court rules LA coroner walks back suicide ruling in hanging death of Robert Fuller amid backlash Supreme Court denies petition to hear 'sanctuary' case MORE delivering the Spanish-language rebuttal on behalf of Democrats following the address

The Hill: GOP senators say they intend to strike a deal regardless of Trump.

The Hill: Negotiators optimistic about avoiding shutdown despite Trump threats.

Still, the president opened and ended the night with overtures to Democrats on potential areas of compromise.

The president asked Democrats to work with him on bills related to infrastructure, drug pricing and family leave. He asked Congress to allocate $500 million to study new therapies for childhood cancer and to support a newly-unveiled moonshot to eradicate HIV from the U.S. in the next 10 years.

When Trump praised the thriving economy for women and the record number of women elected to Congress in 2018, House Democratic women, many dressed in white as a symbol of women’s voting rights, jumped to their feet to cheer. Chants of “USA! USA!” broke out across the chamber. Later, the House sang “Happy Birthday” to Judah Samet, who survived the Holocaust and a shooting last year at the Tree of Life synagogue.

The Hill: 7 memorable moments from Trump’s State of the Union.

The Washington Post: Trump shares the energy (and the power).

Of course, Trump’s frustration with the new Democratic House punched through at times, with references to “socialism,” late-term abortions and the myriad investigations that have enveloped his administration.

“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States — and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way.” — Trump

“Even as I am very disappointed by the president’s approach to our problems – I still don’t want him to fail, but we need him to tell the truth, and to respect his duties and the extraordinary diversity that defines America.” — Georgia’s Stacey Abrams, delivering the official Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union.

Many of the State of the Union responses over the years have been mocked, but Abrams held her own and her speech will spark more chatter that she will challenge Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) in 2020.

The Hill: Trump gets dose of new political reality at State of the Union.

The Hill: Abrams offers progressive counterpoint to Trump in Dem response.

Perspectives and analysis:

The New York Times: Trump sets new meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

The New York Times editorial board: A message of unity from an agent of discord.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board: Trump’s bipartisan pitch.

John Dickerson: Trump’s hollow call for unity.

Henry Olsen: Trump delivered best, most Reaganesque speech of his tenure.

James Oliphant and John Whitesides: Despite bipartisan sheen, Trump’s speech spoke to his base.

Jonathan Bernstein: Trump’s state of the balcony address.




POLITICS & 2020: Amie Parnes writes that the Democratic presidential field is shaping up to be smaller than once anticipated.

Early on, it appeared that two or three dozen candidates were preparing to take the plunge. So far, more than a half dozen candidates have officially announced or launched exploratory committees. There’s still time for the field to grow, but it’s possible the final field settles somewhere around a dozen candidates or so (The Hill).

> Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden chips away at Trump's fundraising advantage Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter The Hill's Morning Report - Trump lays low as approval hits 18-month low MORE apologized on Tuesday for having ever identified herself as Native American, a major reversal for the Massachusetts Democrat, who is expected to officially launch a presidential bid on Saturday. Warren is seeking to move beyond a controversy that was made worse by her release of a DNA test last year. Still, the Post story on Warren’s apology includes a new detail: in 1986, Warren listed her race as “American Indian” on an application for the State Bar of Texas (The Washington Post).

> Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents Joe Biden must release the results of his cognitive tests — voters need to know GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday MORE is among those seeking the party’s nomination, and Max Greenwood reports that the New Jersey Democrat will touch on the same themes of optimism and unity that propelled his early political career as mayor of Newark (The Hill).

And from The Hill’s In the Know: The 49-year-old Booker, whose love life has been the source of endless speculation, revealed on Tuesday that he has a serious girlfriend (The Hill).

> Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats MORE (D-Minn.) will make a “major announcement” about her 2020 plans on Saturday outside of Minneapolis (Minneapolis Star Tribune). 

> Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is mulling an independent presidential run, will deliver a policy speech at Purdue University on Thursday (The Washington Post).

Schultz’s flirtation with a presidential run has struck fear in the hearts of Democrats, who view him as a third-party spoiler who could get Trump reelected. A Democratic super PAC aimed at sinking Schultz’s presidential aspirations has already begun unloading its opposition research on him (CNBC).

> Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Tuesday that he’d make the final decision on a presidential run by the end of the month. O’Rourke’s stock has fallen some since he electrified liberals by nearly toppling Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump administration grants funding extension for Texas testing sites Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down GOP lawmakers join social media app billed as alternative to Big Tech MORE (R) for Texas Senate last year. But Winfrey seemed excited by the prospects of an O’Rourke presidential bid and her crowd went wild over the possibility (The Dallas Morning News).




INVESTIGATIONS: Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyUS, Mexico set for new post-NAFTA trade era Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls GOP skeptical of polling on Trump MORE (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Tuesday he expects special counsel Robert Mueller to submit a final report on the investigation into Russia’s election interference “within a month.”

Speaking during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Grassley said he’d push for the full report to be made public.

“I don’t care what the report says. We paid $25 million, maybe $35 million to do it, and the public ought to know what their $25- or $35 million bought. And except for national security and privacy of individuals, those would be understandably redacted, everything else, I think, ought to be out. – Grassley

Grassley’s expectations about nearing an end comes after acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said last week the investigation was “close to being completed.”

If that’s the case, there are a lot of loose ends to tie up.

Morgan Chalfant reports that Mueller has referred to a number of “uncharged individuals” implicated in “ongoing investigations” in recent court filings, raising the possibility that new charges could be brought against some unknown individuals (The Hill).

The New York Times reports federal prosecutors have been interviewing witnesses at three prominent Washington firms about “the flow of foreign money.” Those named in the Times report are Obama administration alum Gregory Craig of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.) of Mercury Public Affairs, and Tony Podesta, of The Podesta Group.

More from the investigations front … Democratic donor who pivoted to Trump under scrutiny by Southern District of New York (SDNY) in inaugural inquiry (The New York Times) … SDNY seeks interviews with Trump Organization executives (CNN) … Mueller disputes “Putin’s Chef’s” unfair prosecution claim (Bloomberg).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley & Alexis Simendinger. We want to hear from you! and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


The American dream is alive and well: 85 percent of people say the definition is “to have freedom of choice in how to live,” by political scientist and researcher Samuel J. Abrams, The New York Times.

Ralph Northam deserves a chance to redeem himself, by columnist Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features interviews and State of the Union reaction from Reps. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) and Tim BurchettTimothy (Tim) Floyd BurchettTennessee lawmaker tweets cellphone number, offers to talk to anyone 'overwhelmed' by pandemic House Republican: Tariffs are 'only way' to change US-China relationship GOP lawmaker on Iran tensions: Military should always be 'the last option' MORE (R-Tenn.), as well as from Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.

The House convenes at 2 p.m.

The Senate meets at 10 a.m.

The president at 1:30 p.m. announces his selection of Treasury Under Secretary David Malpass to lead the World Bank. At 3 p.m. at the State Department, Trump delivers remarks to the ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, a group formed in 2014. In the evening, he’ll dine at the White House with pastors and the host committee for the National Prayer Breakfast scheduled on Thursday.

Vice President Pence will sit for an interview with CBS News with Jeff Glor at 7 a.m. Later at 1 p.m., he will speak while visiting the U.S. Coast Guard Base in Portsmouth, Va., where he will receive a border security briefing from the Department of Homeland Security Joint Task Force-East, Joint Task Force-West and Joint Task Force-Investigations. The vice president will tour the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter BEAR before returning to Washington.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoIran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report To support Hong Kong's freedom, remember America's revolution Senate passes sanctions bill targeting China over Hong Kong law MORE hosts a Syria small group ministerial meeting at the State Department at 8 a.m., then meets at 9 a.m. with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. In the afternoon, he joins the president for the coalition forum among nations fighting ISIS.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell speaks from 7-8 p.m. from the central bank’s board room in Washington with educators present and those participating nationwide via webcast from Fed bank offices around the country. Powell’s responses to questions can be viewed at and YouTube, on Twitter @FederalReserve and

Economic reports at 8:30 a.m.: The U.S. trade deficit for November will be released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics will report on fourth-quarter U.S. labor productivity and costs.


> Trade: U.S. and Chinese officials will begin another round of trade talks in Beijing next week in search of an accord on intellectual property and agreement to avert a March 2 increase in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods (Reuters).

> World Bank: The president today will nominate Treasury’s David Malpass to serve as the World Bank’s next president, a choice of some concern in the world of development finance because Malpass has long advocated scaling back U.S. international aid and is a sharp critic of the institution he would lead (The Hill). Malpass, 62, must  be approved by the World Bank’s 12-member board before becoming its president. The United States traditionally chooses the bank’s leadership (The Washington Post).

> Space: A new 3D map of 1,399 pulsating stars in the universe reveals that our Milky Way galaxy is warped and twisted around the edges (The Associated Press).

> Taxpayers fly Trump first class: Four of the president’s trips to his Florida home in 2017 cost taxpayers about $13.6 million during a span of a month, amounting to nearly $1 million a day, the watchdog Government Accountability Office reported. The federal government’s costs for the four trips from Feb. 3, 2017 - March 5, 2017, included $60,000 paid directly to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club (Bloomberg).


And finally … what’s old is still new. Exactly 84 years ago today, Monopoly for the first time hit the stores, marketed by Parker Brothers. And it remains the most-played board game ever.

In a world of gadgets and electronics, modern Monopoly sports an abundance of new “themed” editions, but still relies on the classically durable circa-1935 paper currency, miniature game pieces and tiny hotels.

Indeed, just ask Donald J. Trump, whose real estate brand once inspired the Monopoly Trump Entertainment Resorts Collector’s Edition (still for sale on eBay).

Monopoly is competitive enough that a Kansas family broke into a melee while playing the game in late January, a dispute that resulted in a police call and some stitches (The Kansas City Start).

Monopoly remains iconic enough to launch elaborate life-size competitions aboard Dream Cruises and Princess Cruises.

And it’s playful enough that San Jose, Calif., installed a giant outdoor park decorated like the game board. Go!