The Hill's Morning Report - Dem investigative blitz ignites impeachment debate

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy 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.

****
Democrats will dramatically escalate their investigations into President TrumpDonald John TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller report MORE this week, provoking new chatter about how far off impeachment proceedings might be in the House.

A half-dozen congressional committees are investigating the president and his associates, effectively strangling the administration and Trump Organization with requests for testimony and documents into the president’s policies, business interests and campaign.

On the menu this week…

> Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) will request documents from 60 people and entities tied to the president as part of broad investigation into allegations of corruption and obstruction of justice.

Reuters: House panel launches probe into possible obstruction by Trump.

Nadler’s aggressive investigation is notable because his committee would conduct a potential impeachment hearing.

"Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen.” — Nadler

"I think Congressman Nadler decided to impeach the president the day the president won the election." — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse leaders need to modernize Congress for the sake of America Overnight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide MORE (R-Calif.)

> Also on Monday, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsTrump, Congress brace for Mueller findings Ex-Georgia candidate calls for probe, says more than a hundred thousand votes went 'missing' Overnight Health Care: Senators seek CBO input on preventing surprise medical bills | Oversight panel seeks OxyContin documents | Pharmacy middlemen to testify on prices | Watchdog warns air ambulances can put patients at 'financial risk' MORE (D-Md.) has set a deadline for the White House to respond to a voluntary request for documentation about the administration’s security clearance practices.

Senior White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerBill Maher questions whether Democrats put 'too much trust' in Mueller report Kushner to cooperate with Judiciary document requests Washington Monthly editor: Parents 'routinely' use wealth to get children into college MORE will be in focus here, following a report in The New York Times that Trump overrode a decision by his former chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, who recommended Kushner’s security clearance be denied over conflicts of interest.

The Hill: Dems ramp up scrutiny of Kushner’s security clearance.

> On Wednesday, Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen will return for a fourth day of testimony on Capitol Hill before he reports to prison in May.

Cohen, whose public testimony last week sent the Democratic investigative machine into overdrive, will appear for a second time to give private testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, which is led by Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffShowdown looms over Mueller report Pelosi, Dems plot strategy after end of Mueller probe If Mueller's report lacks indictments, collusion is a delusion MORE (D-Calif.), one of Trump’s chief antagonists on Capitol Hill.

Schiff is conducting an investigation that spans Trump’s 2016 campaign, the Trump Organization’s pursuit of a real estate deal in Moscow and the president’s business dealings with Deutsche Bank, among many other things.

The Washington Post: House, Senate Intelligence panels explore Cohen’s knowledge of discussions about potential pardons.

Trump business associate Felix Sater will give public testimony before the committee next week.

The president blasted back at “little shifty Schiff” during a two-hour speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday. Trump continued to defend himself on Sunday on Twitter, declaring, “I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start.” 

“All of a sudden they’re trying to take you out with bullshit.” — Trump at CPAC

Schiff has ruled out a 2020 challenge to Trump.

The Associated Press: Looking beyond Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE, Dems cast investigative nets.

The Associated Press: House Democrats expand Russia probe.

Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi, Dems plot strategy after end of Mueller probe Coons after Russia probe: House Dems need to use power in 'focused and responsible way' Trump, Congress brace for Mueller findings MORE (D-Calif.) is working to tamp down talk about impeachment.

The crush of new investigations underscores the anxiety and enthusiasm Democrats feel as they consider pursuing impeachment.

The Hill: Dems feel growing pressure on impeachment.

NBC News: The Democratic dilemma over impeachment.

Would Democrats dare to tackle that thorny and divisive issue during an election year when the president will be on the ballot? Are Democrats misreading the public’s interest in the Russia investigation? Can they make the case that allegations of corruption rise to the level for impeachment?

These are the questions the party will wrestle with in the coming days and weeks.

“The longer term trend is, the country sort of said they … decided what they think about Russia, and until there’s a heck of a lot more fact, this country is nowhere near where it needs to be to think you can impeach a president.” — GOP pollster Bill McInturff on NBC’s “Meet the Press”

 

 

LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS: It’s been a tough stretch for Trump, from the flood of new investigations to the disappointing outcome at the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The Memo: Trump World faces sea of troubles.

But there is plenty of debate over just how bad things are for the president as the 2020 campaign cycle heats up.

A new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll casts Trump’s reelection bid as an “uphill” climb, with only 41 percent saying they’d vote to reelect him next year and a strong majority viewing the president as dishonest.

But the same poll found Trump’s approval rating tick up to 46 percent, which is about where former Presidents Clinton and Obama stood ahead of their successful reelection bids.

If CPAC taught us anything, it’s that there’s been no erosion in the ferocity of support for the president among his base.

Over the course of a two-hour speech, the president basked in the adulation of his supporters and secured his grasp on a base of voters that are certain to turn out for him in 2020.

Bloomberg: Trump’s base clings tight.

The Washington Post: Republicans rally around Trump as threats mount.

 

 

Meanwhile, the number of candidates lining up for the chance to take Trump on in 2020 will grow bigger this week.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to announce on Thursday, following another governor, Washington’s Jay Inslee, into the race.

The Associated Press: Dem governors look to break through.

 

 

Will former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Former Georgia candidate asks Abrams be given 'space' amid 2020 buzz Biden team denies 'pre-cooked plan' of Abrams as early running-mate pick MORE be next up after Hickenlooper?

Amie Parnes reported last week that Biden has arranged a campaign-in-waiting that is ready to switch into action. This week, Parnes reports that Biden is fishing around for major donors to fund his campaign (The Hill).

Scott Wong asked conservatives at CPAC which Democratic candidate they fear the most in a contest against Trump. Republicans there viewed Biden as the most formidable challenger (The Hill).

More on campaigns and politics … New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s case for 2020 (The Atlantic) … Democratic states are moving to bypass the Electoral College (The Hill) … Few candidates seek Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonThe wisdom of Trump's lawyers, and the accountability that must follow Mueller's report JOBS for Success Act would recognize that all people have potential Howard Schultz is holding the Democratic Party hostage MORE’s 2020 advice (The Associated Press) … Pennsylvania Democrats wonder how far is too far left for 2020 (The New York Times).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS: Just at the moment when political analysts said Trump is comforted by the unflagging support of his base, Senate Republicans on Sunday strung together enough votes to block the president’s emergency declaration to build more miles of border wall.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHillicon Valley: Mueller delivers report, ending investigation | FEMA exposed info of 2.3M disaster survivors | Facebook asks judge to toss DC privacy lawsuit | Trump picks his first CTO | FCC settles lawsuit over net neutrality records Transparency advocate says government agencies face 'use it or lose it' spending Republicans need solutions on environment too MORE (Ky.) became the fourth Republican to publicly announce his opposition to the president’s executive maneuver, and there are more Senate Republicans in the wings, reluctantly weighing a move to challenge Trump on the floor within the next week or so, if pressed to choose (The Hill). The math means Trump could be forced into the first veto of his presidency by his own party, if some other solution is not found. 

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeStop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over New Zealand coverage GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers MORE (R-Utah) is crafting legislation to make it easier for Congress to cancel national emergencies, while other Republicans want the president to back down and withdraw his declaration (The Hill).

They are increasingly uncomfortable politically that they may have to cast a vote on principle that rebukes the president (The Associated Press).

One compromise under discussion: Locate additional appropriations that could be reprogrammed for barrier construction with backing from both parties and Trump, if he agrees to rescind his declaration.

A Republican congressman who opposes Trump’s declaration of a border emergency said Sunday he believes Trump "is violating our constitutional system" (CNN). Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashProperty is a fundamental right that is now being threatened GOP lawmaker tells party to 'do better' after O'Rourke St. Patrick's Day post The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration MORE (Mich.), who declined to rule out a bid for the White House in 2020 as a Libertarian, says the hyper-partisanship means one thing: “Congress is totally broken” (Politico).

The clashes inside the Capitol worry lawmakers just as they begin to face a new showdown over the national debt and lifting the Treasury’s borrowing authority. The countdown began on Saturday to reach a bipartisan agreement by late summer (The Hill).

Democrats in charge of the House are mounting assaults against Trump and Republicans while at the same time bickering in the open within their own ranks. It’s a malady they cannot seem to cure and one the GOP is working with gusto to exploit.

Centrist Democrats are pushing back against a liberal surge experienced in Washington and nationwide (The Washington Post).

In the House, the lawmaker who embodies a loud, leftward tilt in the Democratic Party is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOvernight Energy: Interior reverses decision at heart of Zinke criminal probe | Dem divisions deepen over approach to climate change | GM to add 400 workers to build electric cars 'Washington Monthly' editor says diversity on Capitol Hill starts with interns Why is my party prioritizing an extreme environmental agenda? MORE (D-N.Y.), who recently rebuked centrist colleagues for their votes on gun control (The Hill).

John Anzalone, a Democratic pollster, summed up his frustration with the 29-year-old democratic socialist:

 

 

Meanwhile, intraparty Democratic frictions go well beyond tactics and strategy to challenge foreign policy as well as beliefs about tolerance.

Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarTrump to speak to GOP Jewish group amid anti-Semitism spat with Dems Dems seek to stifle primary challenges to incumbents Trump on 2020 Dems skipping AIPAC: 'I think they're anti-Jewish' MORE (D-Minn.), who is Muslim, continues to agitate fellow Democrats with remarks they perceive as misguided slams against Israel and pro-Israel groups.

On Sunday, she tussled on Twitter with veteran Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyStop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave Bottom Line Left-wing Dems in minority with new approach to spending MORE (D-N.Y.), who has risen to Omar’s defense while also challenging some rhetoric as hurtful and a mischaracterization of support in the Jewish community for Israel (The Hill).

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHillicon Valley: Kushner accused of using WhatsApp, personal email for official work | White House rejects request for Trump-Putin communications | Facebook left 'hundreds of millions' of passwords unsecured | Tech pressured to root out extremism White House rejects Dem request for documents on Trump-Putin communications The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP MORE (D-N.Y.) called some of Omar’s remarks last week anti-Semitic (The Hill).

“It’s unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the U.S.-Israel relationship,” he said of Omar’s remarks at a bookstore event in Washington (The New York Times).

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

We really need to worry about climate change – and act, by Lehigh University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences staff, The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call. http://bit.ly/2NJdU8k

We must denounce the idea of speech as violence, by Jonathan Zimmerman, The San Francisco Chronicle. http://bit.ly/2EsrdWq

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 11:30 a.m.

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Allison Jones Rushing to be a judge with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

The president will host the North Dakota State Bison football team at the White House at 11:30 a.m. He’ll have lunch with Vice President Pence at 12:30 p.m. Two hours later, Trump plans to sign an executive order about the transition of active-duty service members and military veterans into the Merchant Marine. At 4:25 p.m., the president speaks to the National Association of Attorneys General at the White House, joined by the vice president.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS sanctions Venezuelan bank after Guaidó aide's arrest The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game 2020 Dems avoid this year's AIPAC conference MORE, who is from Kansas and recently said he would not run for a Senate seat in 2020, will pull out the diplomatic stops in Iowa today. He will meet with the Des Moines Partnership at 10 a.m. He’ll speak to the Future Farmers of America and Johnston High School students at midday. At 2 p.m., Pompeo visits the Corteva research facility in Des Moines and participates in a trade discussion there. The secretary talks with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) at 4 p.m., and an hour later speaks to the Iowa Farm Bureau at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines.  

First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game Schwarzenegger tells Trump to 'listen to the first lady' before attacking McCain The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump steps up attacks on McCain MORE takes her “Be Best” initiative on the road today and Tuesday with events scheduled in Tulsa, Okla., Seattle and Las Vegas.

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

 

ELSEWHERE

International: China and the United States are drawing closer to a trade deal, the contours of which are emerging (The New York Times) and a Trump summit with President Xi Jinping is expected around March 27 (Reuters) ... The Islamic State is making a final stand in Syria as U.S. fighters close in (Reuters) ... There was finally a lull in tensions over the weekend between nuclear powers Pakistan and India over the disputed Kashmir region (The Associated Press) … Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a fresh approach to governance, but now he’s embroiled in scandal and fighting for his political life (The New York Times).

Marijuana: Follow the money … Former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank (D) joins a local Boston marijuana group, Beantown Greentown (The Boston Globe), following in the cannabis-promotion stampede that includes former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner says it's Democrats' turn for a Tea Party movement House Republicans find silver lining in minority Alaskan becomes longest serving Republican in House history MORE (R-Ohio) and former Massachusetts Republican Gov. William Weld, who is formally exploring a GOP primary challenge to Trump (The Boston Globe); plus lifestyle-marketer Martha Stewart (The New York Times). 

Media: Top executives at Time Warner and HBO have departed after AT&T’s acquisition, raising questions about whether the new media behemoth can continue to produce high-quality creative content (The Wall Street Journal). Some are worried that the takeover will lead to the “Netflixification” of HBO, with a focus on quantity, rather than quality (The Week). Joe Nocera takes a look at the future of the new media conglomerate (Bloomberg).

THE CLOSER

And finally …  NASA and SpaceX made some big bets with Crew Dragon and a Boeing-built capsule called Starliner. Saturday’s successful launch of a test mission and Sunday’s seamless docking of an unmanned capsule with the International Space Station are big news.

NASA wants to start flying U.S. astronauts later this year and end the United States' years-long reliance on Russia to ferry crew to and from the space station (CNN).

Why the big excitement? Because NASA and the United States are poised for a new era in human spaceflight (The New York Times).