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 TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' 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 StoneDemocrats are running out of stunts to pull from impeachment playbook Feds claim 'continued need' for Stone associate's grand jury testimony A reality-based game for Trump watchers: 'Name that Fallacy' 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) GaetzGOP Mueller critic says Flynn contacted him during special counsel probe: report 2020 Dem Seth Moulton calls for expanding cannabis access for veterans Hillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group 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: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Dems ask former CIA chief John Brennan for Iran briefing: report MORE, acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran Acting DHS secretary threatened to quit after clashing with Miller: report On The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada 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 McConnellBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran On The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act 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 MurkowskiOvernight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — House passes drug pricing bills amid ObamaCare row | Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law | Ocasio-Cortez confronts CEO over K drug price tag Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law Bipartisan senators unveil measure to end surprise medical bills MORE on Tuesday joined Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition — Trump: GOP has `clear contrast' with Dems on immigration Overnight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — House passes drug pricing bills amid ObamaCare row | Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law | Ocasio-Cortez confronts CEO over K drug price tag Colorado secretary of state bans employees from traveling to Alabama after abortion law MORE (R-Maine) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisLawmakers call for investigation after census hired registered sex offender Dem Senate campaign arm hits GOP lawmakers over Trump tax law Graham encourages Donald Trump Jr. to plead the Fifth 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi receives John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Dems walk Trump trade tightrope Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution 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 HarrisTrump tweets 'Total Endorsement' of NC GOP House candidate North Carolina state senator wins GOP primary in 9th District Dem candidate in contested North Carolina race refunds donation from Omar campaign 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 Robinette BidenButtigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' Buttigieg: The future 'is personal' for me Donald Trump, president for life? We need term limits now 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 SandersButtigieg defends appearing on Fox News: Many Americans don't hear Dems' message Buttigieg: The future 'is personal' for me Donald Trump, president for life? We need term limits now 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 PolisColorado secretary of state bans employees from traveling to Alabama after abortion law Colorado governor marks day for teen who died in school shooting Montana Gov. Bullock enters presidential race 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 HolderEric Holder: 'There are grounds for impeachment' in Mueller report Prosecutor appointed by Barr poised to enter Washington firestorm Dems struggle to make Trump bend on probes 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 CarbajalThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems raise stakes with talk of 'constitutional crisis' House Dem vets press McConnell on emergency declaration Dem rep 'surprised' more Republicans didn't vote to block Trump emergency declaration MORE (D-Calif.) and Mark GreenMark GreenGOP rep introducing bill offering alternative Medicaid program The Hill's Morning Report - Barr stiff-arms House following Senate grilling Overnight Energy — Presented by Job Creators Network — House Republican tries to force Green New Deal vote | 'Awkward' hearing to vet Interior nominee and watchdog | House panel approves bill to stop drilling in Arctic refuge 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.

YOU’RE INVITED to upcoming newsmaker events with The Hill:

 

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).