The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan
The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Getting Trump to ‘yes’ on border security deal
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.
The months-long drama over government funding and border security that produced the nation's longest federal shutdown may soon be coming to an end.
After initially saying he was "unhappy" with a spending deal brokered by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, President Trump on Tuesday night appeared to have a change of heart after meeting with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The bipartisan deal would allocate about $1.4 billion toward a border barrier, far less than Trump's demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall. The budget deal must pass by Friday at midnight to avoid another shutdown and Congress is scheduled to be out next week for the President's Day holiday.
Trump, under pressure from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), is strongly signaling that he'll sign the bill, avoid another shutdown, and then likely circumvent Congress to obtain additional money for a border wall he says is already being built.
"I'm adding things to it, and when you add whatever I have to add, it's all going to happen where we're going to build a beautiful, big, strong wall." - Trump
The Memo: Trump set to avoid second shutdown.
The Hill: What's in the tentative deal to avert a shutdown.
The wildcard here is whether Trump's allies on Capitol Hill and in conservative media raise hell in the interim and persuade Trump that he's getting fleeced.
Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity has called the proposal "garbage" and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who helped convince Trump to oppose the Senate's stopgap spending bill in December, says he'll vote against the bill.
But the momentum appears to be on the side of the spending deal, with Trump then finding an end-around to obtain additional funds.
"The president has a few more tools in his toolbox." - House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
Trump's plan to reprogram federal resources toward a border wall will almost certainly be challenged in court by Democrats, kickstarting a sequel drama in Washington.
The Associated Press: Negotiators hope to release legislative language today.
The Washington Post: House prepared to vote on the compromise as soon as this evening, and action in the Senate could follow on Thursday.
The New York Times editorial board: Congress dares Trump to veto latest budget.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board: Bipartisan deal is Trump's only way out.
LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), sensing a political opening for his party to draw sharp contrasts with the new House Democratic majority and progressive presidential contenders in the Senate, said his chamber will get a chance to vote on the details of the Green New Deal, which is an environmental and economic treatise embraced most prominently by New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (The Hill.) McConnell did not say when the policy resolution may come to the Senate floor.
"We'll give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal." - McConnell
Trump on Monday night at his Texas rally lampooned the Democrats' Green New Deal as extreme, impractical and unaffordable.
One goal embraced by many left-leaning Democrats is the Green New Deal's call for a "universal basic income" as a feature of economic justice. A recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper found that the cost of a universal basic income large enough to increase transfers of wealth to low-income families would run an estimated $3 trillion per year, or about three-quarters of all current federal expenditures.
> Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to steer her House caucus, which is nothing if not a big tent. Frictions between liberal and centrist Democrats create new challenges for the California Democrat, who is juggling GOP opposition, news media scrutiny and the exuberant demands of newly elected colleagues (The Hill).
One example this week is Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who apologized on Monday for what Pelosi and House Democratic leaders criticized as anti-Semitic tweets aimed at the monied influence of a pro-Israel lobbying group. Seizing on discomfort expressed by House Democrats, including among Jewish lawmakers, Trump on Tuesday called on Omar, the Somali-American freshman lawmaker, to resign. He also said she should be relieved of her committee assignments, or perhaps jettisoned from the House Foreign Affairs Committee (The Hill).
Across the aisle, Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who last month was punished for sympathetic comments about white supremacy and removed from House committees, is asking House GOP leaders to reinstate him. In a letter, King urged House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California to avoid "the fatal mistake of turning the reins of the U.S. Congress over to the liberal media," suggesting without evidence that he was misquoted (The Hill).
Trump never publicly weighed in on King's remarks. Regardless, McCarthy is unlikely to bend to King's request. The Iowa Republican used his letter as public relations aimed at some in the GOP base who are skeptical of McCarthy's leadership.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS & 2020: A major focus for Democrats this cycle will be winning back working-class voters in the Rust Belt region who helped deliver the White House to Trump in 2016. Lisa Hagen takes a look at the candidates and the strategies that might help Democrats rebuild their blue wall (The Hill).
> After several weeks of tough press, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) reminded his supporters why he could be a top contender if he decides to run for president. Amie Parnes writes that O'Rourke seized the opportunity with his counterrally to Trump in El Paso on Tuesday night to the delight of his supporters (The Hill). Trump repeatedly mocked O'Rourke on Monday night, which very well could be a sign the president is concerned about his potential candidacy.
> Democrats running for president in 2020 have some substantial policy disagreements but agree on at least one thing. Harper Neidig writes that progressives and moderates alike are eager to take on Big Tech over privacy, competition and securing the election (The Hill).
> Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, speaking during a CNN town hall event in Houston last night, wouldn't say if he would drop out of the presidential race in late 2020 if his independent candidacy appeared to be helping Trump (CNN).
> Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) sat for an interview with Fox News last night, where she downplayed the Green New Deal as "aspirational" and did not deny reports that she has mistreated staff (Fox News).
More from the campaign trail ... Former astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), a victim of gun violence, will run for Arizona Senate (The Hill) ... Virginia political crisis in stalemate after impeachment threat (Reuters) ... Americans who support abortion rights overwhelmingly oppose late-term abortions, now permitted in New York (YouGov-Americans United for Life).
INVESTIGATIONS: The Senate Intelligence Committee's two-year long investigation into Russia's election interference has been notable for its bipartisan cooperation, particularly in comparison to the House Intelligence Committee's nonstop drama and partisan bickering.
But a split emerged this week between Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the panel, over whether there is evidence of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
"There is no factual evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia." - Burr to NBC News
"Respectfully, I disagree. I'm not going to get into any conclusions I've reached because my basis of this has been that I'm not going to reach any conclusion until we finish the investigation. And we still have a number of the key witnesses to come back." - Warner to CNN
NBC News reported on Tuesday that the Senate Intelligence Committee is winding down its investigation and that Democratic staffers have acknowledged that they have not uncovered any evidence of collusion.
"We were never going to find a contract signed in blood saying, 'Hey Vlad, we're going to collude.'" - a Democratic aide
Meanwhile, Trump's former White House counsel John Dowd made news on ABC News's new podcast "The Investigation," saying that special counsel Robert Mueller had not uncovered any evidence of a conspiracy.
"I know exactly what [Mueller] has. I know exactly what every witness said, what every document said. I know exactly what he asked. And I know what the conclusion or the result is. There's no basis. There's no exposure. It's been a terrible waste of time." - Dowd
Dowd also said he doubts Mueller will release a final report detailing his finding.
"I don't think there'll be a report. I will be shocked if anything regarding the president is made public, other than 'We're done.'"
The Washington Post-Schar School Poll: Americans believe Mueller more than Trump and want his findings to be made public.
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Why an obstruction case against Trump will likely fail, by Jonathan Turley, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2UTcJFB
Trump's tariffs are working, by Michael Stumo, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2th7sMg
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV's "Rising" program, starting at 8 a.m., features Mark Morgan, a former U.S. Border Patrol chief, talking about border security; and Fred Fleitz, former chief of staff of the White House National Security Council, who offers his take on the second summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un in Hanoi Feb. 27-28. http://thehill.com/hilltv
The House convenes at 10 a.m. The Homeland Security Committee hears testimony at 10 a.m. from experts about U.S. election security.
The Senate meets at 10 a.m. and proceeds to executive session to resume consideration of the nomination of William Barr to be attorney general. Confirmation appears assured (The Hill).
The president and first lady Melania Trump meet at the White House with Colombia's President Iván Duque Márquez, a 42-year-old economist elected in August, and Colombia's first lady, Maria Juliana Ruiz Sandoval at 12:10 p.m. Trump hosts a working lunch with Márquez at 12:30 p.m. At a Washington hotel, Trump addresses a joint conference of associations of major county sheriffs and city chiefs of police at 3 p.m.
Vice President Pence is in Poland and Germany through Saturday. In Warsaw today, the vice president will visit U.S. military forces, meet President Andrzej Duda of Poland, and attend a dinner as part of the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is traveling in Poland, Belgium and Iceland through Friday.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the U.S. consumer price index for January and the real earnings report for last month, each at 8:30 a.m.
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> Justice: Mexican crime lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka "El Chapo," was convicted on all counts Tuesday at the end of a three-month federal trial in New York. Guzmán, 61, who led the murderous Sinaloa drug cartel for decades, faces life in prison and will be sentenced in June. His sons took over the business (The New York Times).
> State Watch: Commercial opportunities accompany Arctic ice melt in the minds of some Mainers, who are preparing to take advantage of industrial activities that may emerge because greenhouse gases are dramatically altering one of the last wild places on Earth (The Atlantic). ... The Trump administration faces a key test with Utah's Medicaid program, as the state seeks permission to use billions of federal dollars to expand coverage to only a fraction of the residents required under the Affordable Care Act (The Hill).
> Native Americans: "Predator on the Reservation,'' revealing more than two decades of alleged child sexual abuse by former federal pediatrician Dr. Stanley Patrick Weber, aired Tuesday night on Frontline on most PBS stations, accompanied by investigative reporting by The Wall Street Journal. Reporters Dan Frosch and Christopher Weaver spent two years examining Weber's predatory activities and the officials at the U.S. Indian Health Service who looked the other way. Weber was indicted in 2017 and 2018 for sexually assaulting six patients in Montana and South Dakota.
> Movies: 2018 saw a record number of women taking leads in Hollywood films. Out of the top 100 highest-grossing movies, 40 films had women in central roles as either the main character or the co-lead, according to the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. It is the highest percentage of female-driven films in 12 years (Variety).
And finally ... Valentine's Day is tomorrow, which means you still have time to prepare for the dreaded and/or romantic elements of what's become a crassly commercial and also unignorable annual rite.
News flash: The overall popularity of Valentine's Day is falling while the average spending per person to communicate sweet nothings is on the rise. And the definition of "loved ones" now includes friends, co-workers and pets, reports the National Retail Federation (see Bloomberg chart).
In an expanding economy, wallets are open: Total spending across the United States for Valentine's Day this year is expected to be $20.7 billion, an increase of 6 percent over 2018's $19.6 billion, according to Retail Federation data (Forbes).
More than half of U.S. consumers celebrating tomorrow will go for candy, collectively spending $1.8 billion on sweet confections alone. The heart candies known for classic sayings such as "Be Mine" and "XOXO" are the most popular confection for the holiday, ahead of heart-shaped boxed chocolates (USA Today).
Judy Kurtz, writing for The Hill's In the Know blog, offers a guide to left-, right- and center-aligned gifts aimed at that special political junkie you're mooning over. One suggestion made us laugh: Pins featuring a black and white photo of Mueller's smiling face, encircled with red and pink hearts (price tag: $3 on Etsy).
Maybe love in 2019 needs investigators on hand: The folks at the Federal Trade Commission warn that "romance scams" generated more reported losses than any other category of consumer fraud, costing online optimists $143 million last year. Lonely seniors are particularly vulnerable, the FTC found.
The origins of Valentine's Day may be easily forgotten, along with the reason we celebrate on Feb. 14, so brush up on the oldest surviving Valentine poem (1415) and the first feast of Saint Valentine (circa 496) (The Telegraph).