The Hill's Morning Report - Trump’s long day: From Michael Cohen to Kim Jong Un

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy 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.


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Today will be one for the history books.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates MORE is in Hanoi, Vietnam, for a landmark summit with Kim Jong Un in an effort to reach a deal with North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

Back in Washington, Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen will testify against the president in front of a House committee. Early leaks indicate Cohen intends to drop bombshell allegations pertaining to corruption and crimes involving the president and his business empire.

The dramatic split-screen encapsulates the state of the Trump presidency.

While the president aims for a big payoff on the global stage, he’s been unable to shake the trail of investigations that have dogged him since the 2016 campaign.

The Cohen testimony

Cohen’s appearance before the House Oversight and Reform Committee will get ugly. TEXT of his prepared opening statement this morning sets the tone:

“I know what Mr. Trump is.

“He is a racist.

“He is a conman.

“He is a cheat.

“He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneCounterprotesters outnumber far-right extremists at DC rally Judge orders Roger Stone to file rebuttal to allegation he violated gag order Federal prosecutors allege Roger Stone violated gag order with Instagram posts MORE was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.”

Cohen will also testify that Trump once said black people “would never vote for him because they were too stupid” and suggest that the president expected him to lie about a real estate project in Moscow (The Hill).

The White House insists Cohen can’t be trusted. Trump’s former “fixer” will begin a three-year prison term in May for lying to Congress, various financial crimes, and one campaign finance violation involving the election-year payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

 

 

Trump’s allies are also blasting back at Cohen, and it’s getting personal.

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzHouse and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill Social media summit highlights partisan approaches on tech The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran MORE (R-Fla.), a Trump ally, is being accused of witness intimidation for sending this tweet on Tuesday.

 

 

And the Republican National Committee released a video of times when Cohen has praised and defended Trump. The video ended with the message: “Have fun in prison!”

The Hill: Capitol Hill braces for Cohen spectacle.

The Hill: Five things to watch for as Cohen testifies.


Cohen, who worked for the Trump Organization for more than a decade, gave private testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. He’ll do the same with the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

 

 

North Korea

Trump is seeking to build chemistry with Kim on the first day of the summit, which will include a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders.

“We are now friends.” — Trump to Kim

CNN: What’s flattery got to do with it? Trump seeks rapport with young leader.

Sometime around 8 a.m. Washington time, Trump and Kim will attend an exclusive dinner, along with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump's Iran policy proves the primacy of US power — but to what end? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke State Department raises concerns about Sweden's treatment of detained American rapper MORE, acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Acosta out as Trump Labor secretary Pelosi reportedly told Trump deputy: 'What was your name, dear?' MORE, and two of Kim’s senior aides.

This second summit has been met with deep skepticism from Washington insiders, but a deal that includes verifiable nuclear disarmament by North Korea would be cheered at capitals around the world and hailed as Trump’s signature achievement.

The Associated Press: Anticipation mounts as Trump, Kim close in on second summit.
Reuters: Trump hails North Korea’s “awesome” potential.

LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: House action on Tuesday to nullify Trump’s emergency declaration to finance additional miles of border wall by rearranging Congress’s appropriations foreshadows a dramatic clash in March between the two branches when the GOP-led Senate has to make the next move.

Thirteen House Republicans joined Democrats to defy the president with a 245-182 vote backing a resolution of disapproval (The Hill).

The Associated Press: House GOP leaders worked to keep Republican defections well below 53, the number that would mathematically be needed to override a presidential veto.

 

 

> Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhat Democrats should say about guns This week: House Dems voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller MORE (R-Ky.), who initially opposed the idea of reprogramming military resources under the guise of a White House emergency declaration, said on Tuesday that he’s uncertain Trump’s action, now challenged in court, is legal (The Hill).

The number of Senate Republicans who say they’re willing to block the president’s emergency grip on appropriations foreshadows a presidential veto and a distracting cliffhanger, should Congress seek to override a Trump veto.

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiFinally, GOP lawmakers prove conservation and conservatism go hand-in-hand Alaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Republican lawmakers on why they haven't read Mueller report: 'Tedious' and 'what's the point?' MORE on Tuesday joined Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRepublicans make U-turn on health care Children urge Congress to renew funds for diabetes research Justice Democrats issues 3 new endorsements for progressive candidates MORE (R-Maine) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran Senators urge Trump to sanction Turkey for accepting Russian missile shipment The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic infighting threatens 2020 unity MORE (R-N.C.) in supporting congressional efforts to disapprove Trump’s emergency declaration. If another GOP senator defects to join that group, the president and his executive clout are in trouble (The Hill).

The Hill: White House pleads with Senate GOP on emergency declaration.

Meanwhile, the White House issued a veto threat for the House-passed measure and deployed Vice President Pence to the Capitol Tuesday to try to keep Republicans in the president’s corner.

Whether in Congress or in the courts, Trump’s assertion that conditions at the southern border with Mexico represent a dire national security emergency are being challenged based on facts, law and expertise.

Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, told senators on Tuesday that he’s more focused on “very real” homeland threats coming from China and Russia (The Associated Press).

> Shifting gears to a potentially more seismic challenge ahead for Trump, senior editors Bob Cusack and Ian Swanson explain why a decision about whether to start House impeachment proceedings is one of the most important that Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNYT's Friedman repeatedly says 's---hole' in tirade against Trump on CNN GOP lawmaker: Trump's tweets 'obviously not racist' On the USMCA, Pelosi can't take yes for an answer MORE (D-Calif.) has to make (The Hill).

> Centrists and health care: The enthusiasm among progressives for the concept of “Medicare for all,” a version of which was introduced in the House on Tuesday but which is DOA in the Republican Senate, rattles some moderate Democrats who think the party is in a deep swoon for left-leaning messaging and could struggle with voters next year during a bid to hold the House majority (The Hill).

More congressional action … House lawmakers vote today on a bill opposed by the National Rifle Association but backed by Democrats to require universal background checks for gun sales (The Hill). … A House oversight hearing about data privacy pushed lawmakers closer to comprehensive consumer privacy legislation. The GOP has its own ideas (The Hill). … A Senate hearing about the rising costs of prescription drugs on Tuesday created the aura of bipartisan momentum, even if consensus around proposed solutions is a ways off (The Hill).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS: The GOP’s brutal 2018 election cycle in the House just got a little bit worse.

The North Carolina elections board has called for a do-over election in the 9th Congressional District over allegations that a GOP operative was involved in a ballot fraud scheme.

Mark HarrisMark HarrisDemocrat in contested North Carolina race raised .7M in second quarter Sacramento police reviewing 12-year-old's arrest after video goes viral Trump tweets 'Total Endorsement' of NC GOP House candidate MORE, the Republican candidate who originally won the district, announced Tuesday he would not run again, citing health concerns (The Hill).

> Will he or won’t he? Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates Biden pitches new subsidies, public option in health care plan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke MORE, who sat out the 2016 race after his son Beau Biden died from brain cancer, said at a speech in his home state of Delaware on Wednesday that his family wants him to run for president in 2020.

He’d have at least one other enthusiastic supporter. A woman in the crowd shouted at him: “Oh god, just say yes!”

> The Democratic field will grow larger in the coming days and weeks. Reid Wilson reports that four governors are set to launch their White House bids, testing whether there’s interest on the left for pragmatic executives and Washington outsiders (The Hill).

> Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Judd Gregg: Counting the costs of Democrats' desires MORE (I) will begin campaigning in earnest this weekend, with events scheduled in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Chicago (Burlington Free Press).

Sanders’s team will look entirely different this time around. Three veteran operatives that helped shape his insurgent 2016 campaign — Mark Longabaugh, Julian Mulvey and Tad Devinewon’t be coming back for round two. Sanders’s 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver is also out, according to NBC News.

> Democrats, still fuming over losing the 2016 presidential election, are increasingly talking about abolishing the Electoral College.

Colorado’s Democratic Gov. Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisNumber of openly LGBTQ elected officials rose nearly 25 percent since 2018: report GOP gun rights activist arrested for flashing handgun at U.S. marshal First openly gay man elected governor marks Pride with flag at state capitol MORE says he plans to sign a bill to award his state’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote (The Hill).

Former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderThe old 'state rights' and the new state power The Hill's Morning Report — Harris brings her A game to Miami debate Holder rips Walker over Wisconsin gerrymandering MORE, who is considering running for president, is on board.

 

 

More from campaigns and politics … Chicago’s next mayor will be a black woman after an April runoff (The Hill). … Nearly two-thirds of voters say the Democratic Party supports socialism (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

Talking about socialism will sink Democrats in 2020, by Richard Cohen, The New York Daily News. https://nydn.us/2tIuYBT

9-11 Commission leaders’ new strategy to stop violent extremism, by Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, writing about a new report from the U.S. Institute of Peace Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2GMsdbq

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features interviews with Reps. Salud CarbajalSalud CarbajalHispanic Democrats: ICE raids designed to distract from Trump ties to Epstein Democrats wary of Trump's 'erratic' approach to Iran The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems raise stakes with talk of 'constitutional crisis' MORE (D-Calif.) and Mark GreenMark GreenFour heated moments from House hearing on conditions at border facilities Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid AOC in impassioned testimony: Children were separated from parents 'in front of American flags' MORE (R-Tenn.). Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer swings by to talk about his efforts to impeach Trump. http://thehill.com/hilltv

The House meets at 10 a.m. to consider gun buyer background checks legislation. U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerChinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report The Trump economy keeps roaring ahead Trump says no discussion of extending deadline in Chinese trade talks MORE testifies at 10 a.m. before the House Ways and Means Committee about U.S.-China trade relations.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and expects to work on nominations including Environmental Protection Agency administrator nominee Andrew Wheeler.

The president is in Vietnam for a summit with North Korea’s leader.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testifies at 10 a.m. before the House Financial Services Committee, continuing his discussions this week with lawmakers, which began in the Senate on Tuesday.

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ELSEWHERE

Economy: The Fed’s Powell describes solid but slower growth through 2019 (The Hill).

Medicine: Antibiotic resistance, a growing global crisis, contributes to at least 23,000 deaths in the United States every year and millions more worldwide. Researchers and clinicians are hunting for alternatives, pitting one germ to battle another and working to rev patients’ immune systems (The Associated Press).

Local government: Here’s a municipal revenue trend that irritates drivers — the District of Columbia issued more than $324 million in traffic tickets last year through more than 2.7 million citations. About 1 million tickets were issued through speed and red light cameras, including to commuters from neighboring Virginia and Maryland and to tourists (WTOP).

Telecom: A U.S. appeals court upheld AT&T’s deal to buy Time Warner, a defeat for the Justice Department, which had argued that $85.4 billion merger would harm consumers (Reuters).

THE CLOSER

And finally … a random act of kindness!

A Greenville, S.C., man (unidentified but photographed) bought all the boxes of Girl Scout cookies that two members of a troop were selling last week, spending more than $500 in a matter of minutes, telling them he acted so the girls could get some relief from cold weather. The man’s cookie haul, and the stunned reaction from Troop 1574, appeared on Facebook and went viral, and news outlets everywhere have gushed, but failed so far to track down the mystery man with the sweet tooth and generous spirit (Fox News).