The Hill's Morning Report - House Dems prepare to swamp Trump with investigations

 Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report, and it’s Thursday. 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.

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As one investigation around President TrumpDonald John TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border MORE appears to be winding down, others are ramping up, all but ensuring that a cloud of investigations will hang over the administration for the entirety of Trump’s first term in office.

CNN reports that criminal prosecutor Scott Meisler is departing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal MORE’s team, the latest sign that “the special counsel is winding down the investigation,” although speculation is swirling around several “uncharged individuals” referenced in court filings (CNN). 

Over the past two weeks, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyWe've lost sight of the real scandal Grassley: Kavanaugh classmate didn't contact Senate panel State Dept sent explosive-detection dogs to Jordan despite evidence of mistreatment: report MORE (R-Iowa), who was closely tied into the investigations as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the last Congress, have indicated that a final report from Mueller could be coming soon.

Enter Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff says Trump intel chief won't comply with subpoena over whistleblower Sunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate Schiff: Diplomacy with Iran 'only way out of this situation' MORE (D-Calif.), the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who has been staffing up with lawyers and investigators.

With Democrats in control of the House and the government shutdown in the rearview mirror, at least for now, Schiff laid out a roadmap on Wednesday for how he intends to reopen the Russian interference probe that Republicans shuttered when Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesWe've lost sight of the real scandal Twitter won't disclose who's running parody accounts being sued by Devin Nunes Nunes campaign drops lawsuit against constituents who accused him of being a 'fake farmer' MORE (R-Calif.) was chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

Olivia Beavers reports that Schiff intends to investigate:

  • Trump’s personal financial transactions.
  • Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  • Possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
  • Whether foreign actors have compromising information on Trump.
  • Whether foreign actors have influence over Trump or anyone in his orbit.
  • Whether Trump or anyone in his orbit have obstructed investigations into these matters.

CBS News: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrLawmakers applaud Trump's ban on flavored e-cigarettes Trump to hold campaign rally in North Carolina day before special House election Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post MORE (R-N.C.) says two years into investigation there is no evidence of collusion.

The Hill: House Intelligence Committee votes to release Russia transcripts to Mueller.

Those moves caught the attention of the president, who lashed out at Schiff from the White House on Wednesday.

“[Schiff] has no basis to do that. He’s just a political hack. He’s trying to build a name for himself. And I think that’s fine because that’s what they do. But there would be no reason to do that. No other politician has to go through that. It’s called presidential harassment. And it’s unfortunate. And it really does hurt our country.” — Trump

 

 

That back and forth came after Trump warned in his State of the Union address that “ridiculous partisan investigations” would hamper the “economic miracle” taking place in the United States.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Democrats will 'certainly' beat Trump in 2020 Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw Lewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing MORE (D-Calif.) replied:

“That was a threat. The president should not bring threats to the floor of the House.” — Pelosi

Investigations at the Southern District of New York into Trump’s business empire also appear to have ramped up in recent weeks.

Trump’s in-house legal team, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, has been staffing up to prepare for the new round of investigations.

Meanwhile, William Barr, Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, is scheduled to get a vote before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Republicans have a two-seat majority on the panel so Barr is expected to move out of committee for confirmation this month by the GOP-controlled Senate. On Friday, Whitaker will testify before the House Judiciary Committee, where the Mueller probe will occupy center stage with members.

The Hill: Trump, Democrats clash over probes.

The Washington Post: Trump warned Democrats not to investigate him. Now they’re playing hardball.

More from the investigations front … The House Intelligence Committee has postponed testimony from Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen until the end of the month, citing a conflict with an ongoing investigation (The Hill) … Trump wanted $20 million for 2006 Moscow deal (Bloomberg) … Democrats step up efforts to get Trump’s tax returns (The Hill) … K Street is in overdrive as investigations ramp up (The Hill).

 

 

LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS & 2020: The political crisis in Virginia deepened on Wednesday around three statewide elected Democratic leaders.

In a lengthy statement, a woman named Vanessa Tyson detailed allegations of sexual assault against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who has denied the charges. The alleged incident took place in 2004.

“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault.” – Tyson, who says she was lured into Fairfax’s hotel room at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Fairfax would be in line to replace Gov. Ralph Northam if Northam were to resign over a 1984 photo that showed a person costumed in blackface and another dressed as a Ku Klux Klan member. Northam initially apologized but a day later denied he is in the photograph.

Meanwhile, state Attorney General Mark Herring issued a statement saying he wore blackface makeup at a party in 1980. Herring had previously called on Northam to resign.

Reid Wilson writes that the “rapidly evolving series of crises threatens both their own survival and their party’s electoral chances later this year” (The Hill).

The Richmond Times Dispatch: Virginia’s leaders are not serving its citizens.

The Washington Post editorial board: Northam must resign.

2020

Trump will hold his first reelection campaign rally of the year next week in El Paso, Texas. The city is notable for being on the border with Mexico. In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, the president cited El Paso as an example of where a wall has kept immigrants from crossing the border.

It’s also the hometown of former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who will decide by the end of the month whether he’ll join the field of Democrats running for president.

The New York Times: O’Rourke was once adrift in New York City. Now he’s searching again.

> A new CNN poll finds that a majority of Democrats want former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency 2020 candidates keep fitness on track while on the trail Mark Mellman: The most important moment in history? MORE to enter the 2020 race (CNN).

> Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz will deliver a policy address today at Purdue University in Indiana. On Tuesday in Houston, CNN will host a town hall event with Schultz, who has angered Democrats as he moves closer to launching an independent bid for president (CNN).

> Next up: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenKavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw Mark Mellman: The most important moment in history? Katie Pavlich: The Democrats' desperate do-overs MORE (D-Mass.) will launch her presidential bid on Saturday amid fresh questions about her claims of Native American heritage. Warren has apologized, but The Washington Post revealed this week that Warren claimed she was “American Indian” when she applied for the state bar in Texas. On Wednesday, Warren suggested she might have labeled herself as “American Indian” on other documents as well (Politico).

> Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharMark Mellman: The most important moment in history? Democrats press for action on election security Antitrust enforcers in turf war over Big Tech MORE (D-Minn.) is expected to announce her presidential bid on Sunday.

The Huffington Post: Klobuchar’s mistreatment of staff scared off candidates to manage her presidential bid.

The HuffPost coverage on Wednesday stirred up a ferocious social media debate about gender in politics.

 

 

Senate

> Democrats are clamoring for former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams to run for Senate against Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) in 2020. Perdue is a close Trump ally. Abrams nearly pulled off a stunner in the Georgia gubernatorial race last year and impressed Democrats once again with her nationally televised rebuttal to Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night (The Hill).

Abrams has the attention of the president.

“I don’t think she can win.” — Trump from the Oval Office on Wednesday

> Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump fires back at Graham over Iran criticism Overnight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US Republicans wary of US action on Iran MORE on Wednesday threw cold water on speculation that he’s preparing to mount a bid for Kansas Senate to replace retiring Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers ramp up Silicon Valley antitrust probe | Treasury sanctions North Korean cyber groups | Thiel to host Kobach fundraiser Ann Coulter, Peter Thiel slated to host fundraiser for Kobach's Senate bid: report MORE (R).

“I intend to stay the secretary of State as long as President Trump will give me the incredible privilege to represent Americans around the world.” — Pompeo in an interview with Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo

More on campaigns and politics … House Republicans are painting Democrats as extremists as they attempt to win back the majority in 2020 (The Hill) … Democratic presidential contenders face a dilemma on how far to go in championing Medicare for all (The Hill).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS: It's crunch time for lawmakers who are trying to prevent a second partial government shutdown in as many months. Though negotiators technically have until Feb. 15 to pass a funding compromise, lawmakers say they must finish within days if they want to move legislation before the funding for a quarter of the government runs out (The Hill).

Appropriations Conference Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyCongress set to ignore Trump's wall request in stopgap measure Overnight Defense: Trump says Taliban talks 'dead' after canceled Camp David meeting | North Korea offers to restart nuke talks this month | Trump denies role in Air Force crew staying at his resort McConnell: Short-term spending bill needed to avoid shutdown MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters Wednesday she remains cautiously optimistic about the bipartisan negotiators’ progress. She dismissed suggestions there would be another stopgap measure to add time to the clock, but House leaders have not dismissed the option.

Trump is expected to promote border security and the wall during a trip on Monday to El Paso, Texas.

Vice President Pence on Wednesday defended the recently ended 35-day partial shutdown as well as the president’s push for $5.7 billion to build a wall.

“I never think it’s a mistake to stand up for what you believe in,” he told CBS’s Jeff Glor. Asked if he could rule out another shutdown after Feb. 15, the vice president said, “I can’t make that guarantee.”

> Meanwhile, acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump administration asks Supreme Court to take up challenge to consumer bureau NOAA chief praises agency scientists after statement backing up Trump tweet The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same MORE, who is also Trump’s budget expert, invited a bipartisan group of lawmakers to meet this weekend at Camp David along with officials from the administration. The president is not expected to be there, although the guest list is hush-hush. The White House said the gathering has “no agenda” (Politico).

Lowey laughed when she told reporters Mulvaney had not invited her to the Camp David retreat.

> Senate Republicans are divided over whether to move a budget resolution this year. They want to reform the budget process, arguing that proposed changes could help avoid future government shutdowns (The Hill).

> Congressional Democrats are set to challenge Trump’s relationship with Saudi Arabia in one of the party’s first major foreign policy confrontations since retaking the House. Senators, meanwhile, will be able to force a vote on their identical resolution in the coming weeks, meaning that both chambers could dare Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency (The Hill).

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

OPINION

The decline of historical thinking, by Eric Alterman, columnist, The New Yorker. https://bit.ly/2t44muP

Americans need more than words to solve national problems, by Dan Mahaffee, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2t8iCTk

WHERE AND WHEN

The House convenes at 10 a.m. The House Energy and Commerce Committee hears testimony at 10:30 a.m. about the administration’s migrant family separation policy during 2018.

The Senate meets at 10 a.m. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination of William Barr to be attorney general.

The president speaks to attendees at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast at 8 a.m. He meets with Pompeo over lunch at 12:45 p.m. Trump will sign a national security presidential memorandum at 1:45 p.m. to launch a “women’s global development and prosperity” program.

The vice president attends the prayer breakfast with Trump and at 11:30 a.m. speaks to directors and deputy directors of high-intensity drug trafficking areas from 32 states.

The secretary of State attends the morning prayer breakfast in Washington. He meets at 11 a.m. with Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah. In addition to lunch with the president, Pompeo will meet with Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis at 2 p.m., and Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir at 3:45 p.m. 

The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. releases initial jobless claims for the week ending Feb. 1.

ELSEWHERE

> Media: The New York Times Co. reported $709 million in digital revenue for 2018, a healthy showing in a vulnerable news media revenue landscape that encouraged the company to set a new goal to expand its subscriptions to more than 10 million by 2025 (The New York Times).

> The Hill’s In the Know: Lawmakers have nominated Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. Franklin died in August at the age of 76. Two Democrats in the House and two in the Senate —  most of them from Franklin’s home state of Michigan — have introduced legislation to honor Franklin with one of the highest awards a civilian can receive.

> HIV/AIDS: The Trump administration this week released a new multi-year, multi-agency approach aimed at ending the HIV epidemic over the next 10 years. But Trump’s sudden commitment to the cause is being greeted with skepticism from critics (The Hill).

THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the president’s Tuesday night speech, we’re eager for some smart guesses about State of the Union addresses.

Email your responses to jeasley@thehill.com or asimendinger@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy newsletter fame on Friday.

Why does any U.S. president report to Congress about the state of the nation?

  1. Required by law
  2. Mandated by the Constitution
  3. Requested by television networks
  4. Political tradition

Which of these presidents revived delivery of the State of the Union report to Congress in person?

  1. Warren Harding
  2. Calvin Coolidge
  3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  4. Woodrow Wilson

Which president offered this downbeat assessment during his televised speech: “I must say to you that the state of the Union is not good”?

  1. Lyndon B. Johnson
  2. Richard Nixon
  3. Gerald R. Ford
  4. Jimmy Carter

Which president is credited with changing the annual State of the Union format by featuring selected guests seated in the House gallery as part of his address ?

  1. Harry Truman
  2. John F. Kennedy
  3. Ronald Reagan
  4. George W. Bush

Which president delivered the longest (in minutes) televised State of the Union speech?

  1. William J. Clinton
  2. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama meets with Greta Thunberg: 'One of our planet's greatest advocates' Trump: Cokie Roberts 'never treated me nicely' but 'was a professional' Obama, Bush among those paying tribute to Cokie Roberts: 'A trailblazing figure' MORE
  3. Donald J. Trump
  4. Ronald Reagan