The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game
The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Next 24 hours critical for stalled funding talks
Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and it's Monday! 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.
Washington is barreling toward another partial government shutdown, with border security negotiations at an impasse and the clock ticking down to a Friday deadline.
Lawmakers have been adamant they would avoid another government closure after the record 35-day shutdown cost the economy billions of dollars and provoked chaos at the nation's airports and parks.
But with only five days to go to reach a deal that can pass the House and Senate and be signed into law by President Trump, negotiations have hit a rut over the number of beds that can be funded in border detention facilities.
"As long as the goalposts continue moving, there's really no way we can lock in on an agreement." - Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.), a member of the negotiating committee, on ABC's "This Week."
The Hill: Border talks stall as another shutdown looms.
Bloomberg News: Congressional talks on border security have broken down.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) put the odds of a deal at 50-50.
The president was damaged politically by the prior shutdown, but the White House is signaling Trump would be ready to endure another.
"Is a shutdown entirely off the table? The answer is no." - Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Amid that backdrop, Trump will kick off his 2020 reelection campaign tonight from El Paso, Texas, the bustling border town that the White House has cited as an example of how border walls reduce the flow of illegal immigrants into the country. Afterward, the president will be interviewed by Laura Ingraham on Fox at 10 p.m.
Trump's Texas visit will be a spectacle.
In addition to Trump's rally, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), who lost his Senate bid in November, will lead a counter demonstration nearby. El Paso is O'Rourke's hometown and the Texas Democrat, who will announce his presidential plans at the end of the month, is himself a powerful draw on the campaign trail.
The infamous Trump "baby blimp" is expected to make an appearance after a GoFundMe campaign launched by protesters reached its fundraising goal.
The Associated Press: Trump tries to turn border debate his way with El Paso rally.
The Hill: Trump, Dems have reasons to work together but tensions are boiling over.
LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS & 2020: Two U.S. senators joined the Democratic presidential field over the weekend and a third is considering joining the race.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the progressive firebrand, launched her campaign from Lawrence, Mass., with a focus on low and middle-class earners struggling to make ends meet.
The Boston Globe: Warren makes it official.
Warren enters the race as a top contender but badly damaged by her claims, since retracted, of Native American ancestry. The Massachusetts Democrat has apologized and tried to put the controversy behind her, but allegations that she sought to advance her career while maintaining she was a member of a minority group could haunt her campaign.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also made it official, announcing her presidential run in the snow in Minneapolis. She'll be interviewed today on ABC's "Good Morning America," and appear later today on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show."
The Hill: Klobuchar jumps into 2020 race.
Klobuchar's image as a salt-of-the-earth Midwesterner has taken a hit in recent days, with a string of stories alleging that she treats her staff abusively. She conceded on Sunday that she can "be tough," but pointed to staff members who have been with her for years (The Hill).
BuzzFeed: Staffers, documents show Klobuchar's wrath toward her aides.
"I think having one more voice in that conversation that's focused on America's future, I don't think would hurt." - Bennet
Meanwhile, the rolling political disaster for Democrats in Virginia continues.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) says he will not resign and has embarked on an apology tour, although he still denies that he was photographed in blackface or wearing a Ku Klux Klan costume. In an interview with CBS News, anchor Gayle King corrected Northam for using the term "indentured servants" instead of "slavery."
CBS News: Northam vows to remain in office despite calls to resign.
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who would be next in line to succeed Northam, is also refusing to resign after two women accused him of sexual assault, allegations he denies. Democrats in the state are in a bind over whether to impeach him (The New York Times). There does not appear to be much momentum toward impeachment with the legislative session coming to a close at the end of the month (The Associated Press).
The Associated Press: Black Virginia voters feel betrayed, left in no-win scenario.
The Hill: Virginia scandals pit Democrats against their message.
Perspectives and Analysis
Steven Pearlstein: Democratic politicians are tripping over one another to demonstrate progressive bona fides, including a wealth tax, 70 percent tax rates and "Medicare for all."
David Von Drehle: Democrats' Green New Deal has some seeing only red ink.
The National Journal: Democrats are boosting Trump's reelection prospects.
The Hill: Trump divides Democrats with warning of creeping socialism.
CONGRESS: Late Sunday, freshman Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar ignited a new controversy on Capitol Hill when she suggested GOP support for Israel is driven by campaign donations from AIPAC, a prominent pro-Israel lobbying group (The Hill). House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other Republicans have criticized Omar before and after her election based on her negative comments about Israel (Politico).
> The House will soon face a floor vote on impeachment, the first since Democrats won the majority, according to Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), an outspoken proponent of Trump's ouster. The ongoing political crisis in Virginia presents a backdrop for Democrats to decry bigotry "by starting at the top" in the White House, he said, offering a new rationale for the president's impeachment. His views divide his party (The Hill).
> Senators from both parties say they have modest expectations for Trump's second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Feb. 27-28 in Hanoi, Vietnam. The lowered bar comes after Trump's first summit with Kim failed to yield a concrete agreement and negotiations since June delivered no tangible headway toward denuclearization (The Hill). ... The president imagines a second summit will still be much-watch TV, lauding a theme of "good vs. evil," according to one unnamed confidant (The Associated Press).
> Senate Republicans sparked new tensions last week when they advanced more than 40 judicial nominations, including several who did not have support from home-state senators. Democrats are fuming (The Hill).
> GOP lawmakers who authored the 2017 tax bill with Trump's enthusiastic signature are beginning to be confronted by individual tax filers who are upset as they discover they owe the IRS or will not receive refunds they expected (NBC News). Here's how the new tax law will impact returns (NBC News). Disappointment and more questions are expected before the April 15 tax filing deadline, and there may be some political unease about the reactions to the new law.
> Former Rep. John D. Dingell Jr. (D-Mich.), who died last week at age 92, will be eulogized today in Dearborn, Mich. A funeral mass will take place Tuesday in Dearborn, and his casket will be driven past the U.S. Capitol in Washington later in the day. The House will hold no roll call votes on Tuesday.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) will speak to honor Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress from 1955 to 2014, during the service in Dearborn.
On Thursday, a funeral service also is scheduled in Washington at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, and former President Bill Clinton, former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland will speak. Dingell, a veteran of World War II, will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery (Roll Call).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
INVESTIGATIONS: Will Democrats turn on special counsel Robert Mueller if they're unsatisfied with his findings?
So far, Democrats have defended the integrity of Mueller's investigation against Trump's attacks.
But in a Sunday interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) suggested that Mueller might not be able to prove there was a crime of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
And he took a swipe at Mueller, saying that the scope of the special counsel's investigation is not broad enough.
"There has been reporting that when it was alleged that the special counsel had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, that the president moved to fire Mueller. And the way they talked him off the ledge was by promising that that reporting wasn't true, that the special counsel hadn't subpoenaed Deutsche Bank. Well, if the special counsel hasn't subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, he can't be doing much of a money laundering investigation." - Schiff
There is mounting speculation that the special counsel probe is winding down, just as Schiff is ramping up his own probes into the 2016 campaign and the president's personal business empire.
Democrats are heavily invested in proving that some of the heaviest allegations against the president are true.
If Mueller doesn't deliver the goods on that front, Schiff is positioning himself to take up the torch. He's been casting a wide net in building a team of outside consultants, investigators and lawyers and has brought on at least one former member of Trump's national security team, who also served in the Obama administration.
The Memo: Trump allies fret as legal troubles multiply.
The Washington Post: Schiff voices concern that Mueller's scrutiny of Trump is inadequate.
Reuters: Schiff questions if Mueller probing Trump-Deutsche Bank link.
The New York Times: Comments by one of Mueller's lead prosecutors, disclosed in a transcript of a closed-door hearing, point to continued interest in whether Moscow eyed the Trump campaign as a route toward relief from U.S. economic sanctions.
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I'm from the same generation as Northam and Herring. Their behavior is mind-boggling, by former Democratic Rep. Donna F. Edwards of Maryland, opinion contributor, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2MWrfcO
The case for Amy Klobuchar, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. https://on.wsj.com/2GjBast
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV's "Rising" program, starting at 8 a.m., features Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, who talks about air transport risks, should there be another federal shutdown; House Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.); and author of a new book about social justice, Noah Rothman. http://thehill.com/hilltv
The House convenes at noon.
The Senate meets at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of the Natural Resources Management Act.
The president receives his intelligence briefing and has lunch with Vice President Pence. Trump will sign an executive order at 3 p.m. about maintaining U.S. competitiveness in artificial intelligence. Later, the president will fly to El Paso, Texas, for a rally that begins at 9 p.m.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belgium and Iceland beginning today through Feb. 15.
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> Media: The attorney for the CEO of American Media Inc., denied allegations that the parent company of the National Enquirer attempted to extort and blackmail Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos using compromising photographs, lawyer Elkan Abramowitz told ABC's "This Week," on Sunday. Bezos's investigators suggested last week that the Enquirer's coverage of his extramarital affair with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez was driven by dirty politics, and the high-profile clash now pits the world's richest man against David Pecker, the leader of America's best-known tabloid and a Trump ally (The Washington Post).
> Neuroscience: Researchers think they're getting closer to an audacious goal - a device implanted into the brains of severely depressed people to detect the early signs of downward spirals in order to prevent them (Science News)
> Demographics and Rx: Who buys prescribed medications? Higher income is a predictor of who is most likely to pay for pharmaceuticals for certain serious health conditions and mental health maladies, as well as lifestyle problems (The New York Times).
> Grammy awards: Country music's Kacey Musgraves won four Grammys Sunday night including album of the year for "Golden Hour," in a tie for four wins with rap star Childish Gambino's "This Is America," the song of the year (The Washington Post). ... Lady Gaga, captured three Grammy awards, including one for the best pop/group performance shared with Bradley Cooper for the song "Shallow" from "A Star Is Born." ... Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance during a show opener from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The former first lady was greeted with screams when she joined Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith and Jennifer Lopez to talk about what music meant to her while growing up in Chicago. "Whether we like country, rap or rock, music helps us share ourselves," said the bestselling author of the memoir "Becoming" (Associated Press). Women were strongly represented among nominees at Sunday's Grammys, in contrast with last year's ceremony, where male acts dominated (The Associated Press). And fashion was a big part of the night, including a pro-Trump border wall dress worn by singer Joy Villa (Variety).
And finally ... gender equality in big-wave surfing. The New York Times Magazine on Sunday took readers into the elite world of monster-wave competition to describe women surfers who enjoy big reputations in one of the most dangerous sports on Earth.
Over the past two years, Bianca Valenti, Keala Kennelly, Andrea Moller and Paige Alms have argued for the right to risk their lives in a competition that men enjoy - and for equal pay. As the Times reports, they have been more successful than they ever imagined.
Outside magazine put Valenti on its 2018 list of the most accomplished athletes, and USA Today recently featured these women and their daring achievements.
"You're in this silent glass world of water, and you're in so much risk, and yet you're so driven that it almost feels like there's a pause," says Moller as she recalls a wave growing until it blocked out the rising sun and kept expanding. That vision never left her. "That's the wave of your life," she says, "the wave that, years later, you can still go back to."