The Hill's Morning Report - A pivotal week for Trump




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Monday in the final stretch of February! 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.

***  OSCARS! If you missed some of the 3+ hours of ABC’s broadcast of awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, you can still catch up with what turned out to be an ensemble production (The New York Times) … Hollywood’s night was a celebration of diversity, empowerment and feel-good messaging in cinema. And of course there were political speeches (check the highlights in “Elsewhere,” below).  *** 


The White House faces a pivotal week on the global stage, as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 MORE seeks to close the deal on several foreign policy items that could be among the defining moments of his presidency.

Trump travels to Hanoi, Vietnam, for a summit on Wednesday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The president is also juggling delicate trade negotiations with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Vice President Pence, meanwhile, begins the week in Colombia to press for the removal of Nicolás Maduro as president of neighboring Venezuela.

For national security reasons, it is rare for both a president and vice president to travel abroad at the same time.

North Korea

> The U.S. goal is to convince Kim to abandon North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. Democrats are deeply skeptical of the summit and believe that by meeting with Kim, Trump is elevating him and furnishing propaganda that will bolster his standing back home.

“We have a special feeling and I think it’s going to lead to something very good, and maybe not. I think ultimately it will, but maybe not, and I’m not pushing for speed but we’re not removing the sanctions,” Trump said Sunday about his outlook with Kim.

At the first summit, Trump and Kim agreed to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” However, the deal was panned for lacking specific steps North Korea must take toward that end. U.S. officials don’t seem to be on the same page at the moment about what complete “denuclearization” would entail.




The Hill: Questions swirl around Trump’s summit with Kim.

The Associated Press: A nightmare scenario for the Hanoi summit.


> Pence today will be on the ground in Bogota, Colombia, for four hours to advocate for opposition leader Juan Guaidó to assume power from Maduro in Venezuela.

The situation in Venezuela is combustible after clashes over the weekend resulted in deaths and injuries at the country’s borders. Maduro’s military reportedly opened fire on activists who attempted to distribute humanitarian aid at the northwest border between Venezuela and Colombia.

Guaidó is asking for the international community to intervene. Trump has not ruled out sending troops to South America, even as the president seeks to draw down U.S. forces elsewhere around the world.

The Washington Post: Pence to propose “concrete steps” to address the weekend’s violence while speaking in Colombia.  

The Associated Press: Maduro opponents boost military rhetoric in Venezuela crisis.

The New York Times: At Venezuela’s border, a strange and deadly showdown over aid.


> Trump on Sunday announced that he is postponing a new round of tariffs on China that were scheduled to go into effect on March 1, saying he’s granting more time for the United States and China to reach a sweeping trade deal.

The president said that negotiators have made “substantial progress” and that he hopes to meet with China’s Xi next month to finalize an agreement, most likely at Mar-a-Lago.

The Hill: Trump delays March 1 deadline for China trade deal.

Americans For Prosperity: The effects of tariffs told through businesses and consumers.

Middle East

> Senior White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerDemocrat calls for investigation of possible 'inappropriate influence' by Trump in border wall contract Judge temporarily halts construction of a private border wall in Texas Mueller witness linked to Trump charged in scheme to illegally funnel money to Clinton campaign MORE embarked on a trip to the Middle East over the weekend.

Over the course of his five-country tour, Kushner is expected to reveal new details about his plan to promote a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Al Jazeera: Kushner heads to the Middle East to promote peace plan.

The Associated Press: EU, Arab leaders vow to boost security, migration ties.




CONGRESS: Lawmakers return to Washington anticipating a House vote Tuesday to challenge Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build miles of new wall at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Passage of the resolution in the Democratic-controlled House is a sure bet, but its trajectory in the GOP-led Senate is unclear. One Republican senator has publicly broken ranks with Trump, although there are others who initially shared Democrats’ opposition to the emergency reshuffling of appropriations for a border wall, now a subject of litigation.

The most likely Senate Democrat who could defect is Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinStatesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges Both sides have reason to want speedy Trump impeachment trial No one wins with pro-abortion litmus test MORE from West Virginia.

The Hill: Disapproval resolution sponsored by Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroPelosi faces tough choices on impeachment managers Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Minority lawmakers call out Google for hiring former Trump DHS official MORE (D-Texas) heads to House floor on Tuesday.

The Hill: If all 47 Democrats in the Senate back a House-passed resolution, four Republicans are needed in the Senate to send the measure to the president’s desk for what could become the first veto of Trump’s term.

In addition to floor action, House Democrats have scheduled testimony Wednesday and Thursday to challenge the president’s emergency declaration, and will point to nearly 60 experts who disagree with Trump’s actions.

The Associated Press: Former U.S. national security officials to oppose declaration in statement today.

The House Appropriations subcommittee on military construction will explore the impacts of Trump’s decision to reprogram nearly $4 billion in appropriations previously slated for non-wall military construction projects.

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee plans new scrutiny of the National Emergencies Act of 1976, the foundation for Trump’s executive declaration.

House Democrats will also focus on other Trump policies this week, including oversight hearings to discuss data privacy, economic conditions in rural America, transgender policy at the Pentagon, and “federal inaction on climate change.”




INVESTIGATIONS: One of the most highly-anticipated political events of the year will take place on Wednesday, when Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen testifies publicly before the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

The hearing is expected to focus heavily on Trump’s personal business empire. Cohen worked for the Trump Organization for a decade and has signaled that he intends to tell lawmakers everything he knows about the inner workings of the president’s business interests.

The New York Times: Cohen gave prosecutors new information on the Trump business.

The Memo: Trump’s legal woes extend beyond Mueller probe.

Cohen, who once described himself as Trump’s “fixer,” will also give closed-door testimony to the Intelligence committees in the House and Senate this week.

Cohen will begin a three-year prison sentence in May after pleading guilty to a range of charges pertaining to financial corruption and lying to investigators. Cohen also pleaded guilty to two campaign finance violations involving a scheme to pay two women to stay quiet about affairs they claim to have had with Trump. The president denies the affairs and says he never instructed Cohen to make the payments.

> Department of Justice officials say special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump MORE will not be handing over his final report to Attorney General William Barr this week, contrary to recent media reports.

The Washington Post: House Democrats vow to subpoena Mueller if report not made public.

But over the weekend, the special counsel filed an 800-page sentencing memo on Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortGiuliani draws attention with latest trip to Ukraine GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties GOP fantasies about Ukrainian election 'interference' blow up Trump's impeachment defense MORE, arguing that Trump’s former campaign chairman is not deserving of leniency from the judge in the case.

Read the sentencing memo HERE.

Mueller is going hard after Manafort, who has been found guilty of a range of crimes committed over the course of a decade, including money laundering, tax fraud, bank and wire fraud and illegal foreign lobbying.

Bloomberg: New York has prepared new Manafort charges in case Trump pardons him.

So far, all of the charges against Trump’s former campaign chairman have pertained to corruption in his personal business dealings.

There was some speculation that the sentencing memo would show the special counsel’s pursuit of a criminal conspiracy to collude with a foreign power, but there were few new details in the document.

The Associated Press: Court records reveal a Mueller report in plain view.

The Hill: Five tantalizing questions about Mueller’s investigation.



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 Green Book’s black history, by Brent Staples, New York Times editorial board.

America must not idly stand by as Russia builds nuclear capabilities, by Douglas Schoen, opinion contributor, The Hill.


The House meets at 2 p.m.

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. and proceeds to the traditional reading of George Washington's 1796 Farewell Address, then resumes consideration of the motion to proceed to the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection bill.

The president hosts a White House “business session” breakfast for governors. Trump then departs for Vietnam for his second summit with Kim, scheduled Feb. 27-28.

Vice President Pence arrives in Colombia at 9 a.m. He participates in bilateral meetings before his speech to the Lima Group at 10:35 a.m. Pence visits Venezuelan migrant families at 11:25 a.m. and departs Colombia at 1:20 p.m. The vice president returns to Washington at 6:40 p.m.     

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization West Bank annexation would endanger Israel's security House approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump MORE is traveling to Hanoi and Manila, Philippines from Feb. 24-March 1.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts outgoing Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinRosenstein, Sessions discussed firing Comey in late 2016 or early 2017: FBI notes Justice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe Judge rules former WH counsel McGahn must testify under subpoena MORE for a discussion that contrasts U.S. and Chinese norms in defense of the rule-of-law, at noon. Webcast viewing HERE.

Georgetown University Law School’s Journal of National Security Law & Policy holds a symposium beginning at 9 a.m. about nuclear weapons threats featuring experts talking in advance of Trump’s summit this week with Kim. Details HERE

You’re invited on Tuesday: Join The Hill Events tomorrow, 8-10 a.m., for Leadership in Action: Criminal Justice Reform, featuring Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinThe Secure Act makes critical reforms to our retirement system — let's pass it this year Lawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death Senate Democrats ask Pompeo to recuse himself from Ukraine matters MORE (D-Md.), Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats worry about diversity on next debate stage Doug Collins on potential 2020 Senate run: I'm not 'ruling it out' Georgia ready for unpredictable Senate race MORE (R-Ga.), Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Democratic Del. Stacey PlaskettStacey PlaskettOmar says US should reconsider aid to Israel Schumer to donate Epstein campaign contributions to groups fighting sexual violence House Democrat backtracks, will now donate Epstein's campaign contributions MORE from the Virgin Islands. Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack and Hill.TV's Jamal Simmons talk with lawmakers about the future of criminal justice reform following the recent enactment of the First Step Act. RSVP HERE.


Catholic Church: Pope Francis declared an “all-out battle” against sexual abuse among the clergy at a landmark gathering to address the systemic abuse of children within the Catholic Church (Reuters). A top Cardinal admitted over the weekend that church officials had destroyed files documenting decades of abuse that could have prevented some sexual assaults (The National Catholic Reporter).

Crime: The law enforcement sweep that led to a charge of soliciting a prostitute against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft put a spotlight on Florida’s thriving sex trafficking trade (The New York Times).

Sports: The new baseball season is underway, with the first spring training games taking place in Florida and Arizona (The Associated Press).

Film: From the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it was a celebration of diversity on Sunday night. Full list of Oscar winners.







And finally … another nod to history. On this date in 1870, Mississippi Republican Hiram R. Revels became the first black American to join the Senate.

“Mr. Revels, the colored Senator from Mississippi, was sworn in and admitted to his seat this afternoon,” reported The New York Times on Feb. 25, 1870. “Mr. Revels showed no embarrassment whatever, and his demeanor was as dignified as could be expected under the circumstances. The abuse which had been poured upon him and on his race during the last two days might well have shaken the nerves of any one.”

As The Washington Post recounted last year, Revels, a barber and former Union Army chaplain, embodied a short-lived period of “biracial democracy” in the Reconstruction-era Deep South. However, it was not long before a post-Civil War backlash focused on black lawmakers, some of whom had once been slaves, as white supremacy groups and voter suppression efforts became prominent, especially in the South.



***  Morning Report trivia quiz update: We didn’t mean to overlook Mark Neuman-Scott and Jerry Kovar, who also aced our Oscars questions last week and should have heard the applause in Friday’s newsletter! ***