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.

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Democrats will dramatically escalate their investigations into President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Veterans group backs lawsuits to halt Trump's use of military funding for border wall Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails 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 rejects GOP measure censuring Schiff Poll: 14 percent of GOP voters say Trump should be impeached Turkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate MORE (R-Calif.)

> Also on Monday, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsDiplomat who raised Ukraine concerns to testify in Trump impeachment probe House rejects GOP measure censuring Schiff Overnight Defense: Trump weighs leaving some troops in Syria to 'secure the oil' | US has pulled 2,000 troops from Afghanistan | Pelosi leads delegation to Afghanistan, Jordan 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 KushnerCareer State official warned about Biden's son: report Buttigieg knocks Trump as a 'walking conflict of interest' Biden's weak response to Trump is a lesson for Democratic candidates 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 SchiffSchiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails Trump urges GOP to fight for him House rejects GOP measure censuring Schiff 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 (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE, Dems cast investigative nets.

The Associated Press: House Democrats expand Russia probe.

Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Four companies reach 0M settlement in opioid lawsuit | Deal opens door to larger settlements | House panel to consider vaping tax | Drug pricing markup tomorrow Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails Trump urges GOP to fight for him 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 BidenJoe BidenTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Warren to protest with striking Chicago teachers Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails 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 ClintonHouse Democrat pledges 'there will be open hearings' in impeachment inquiry Democrats dig in ahead of Supreme Court ruling on 'Dreamers' Even with likely Trump impeachment, Democrats face uphill climb to win presidency 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 PaulRand Paul confronted over 'Republican bullshit' in restaurant This week: Tensions flare over Schiff, impeachment inquiry Turkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate 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 LeeZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes 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 AmashSunday shows — Mulvaney seeks to tamp down firestorm over quid pro quo comments, Doral decision Amash rips Trump over move to send troops from Syria to Iraq Amash: Clinton's attack on Gabbard will 'drive many people into the arms' of Trump 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-CortezDemocratic strategist: Sanders seeking distance from Warren could 'backfire' These 3 women are defining the race to unseat Trump CBS to Ocasio-Cortez on Sanders support: 'As a woman of color, why back an old white guy?' 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 OmarNorth Dakota GOP state lawmaker shares debunked photo, calls Omar a 'terrorist' These 3 women are defining the race to unseat Trump Ocasio-Cortez says endorsing Sanders early is 'the most authentic decision' she could make 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 LoweyTrump officials say aid to Puerto Rico was knowingly stalled after Hurricane Maria McConnell tees up government funding votes amid stalemate Dem committee chairs blast Trump G-7 announcement 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 EngelOvernight Defense: Trump weighs leaving some troops in Syria to 'secure the oil' | US has pulled 2,000 troops from Afghanistan | Pelosi leads delegation to Afghanistan, Jordan House chairman joins with European counterparts to slam Trump's Syria withdrawal Pelosi, delegation make unannounced trip to Afghanistan 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 PompeoDiplomat who raised Ukraine concerns to testify in Trump impeachment probe Overnight Defense: Trump weighs leaving some troops in Syria to 'secure the oil' | US has pulled 2,000 troops from Afghanistan | Pelosi leads delegation to Afghanistan, Jordan Mulvaney faces uncertain future after public gaffes 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 TrumpMelania Trump breaks ground on new White House tennis pavilion Overnight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Buttigieg unveils aggressive plan to lower drug prices | Supreme Court abortion case poses major test for Trump picks | Trump takes heat from right over vaping crackdown Kroger to stop sales of e-cigarettes at stores 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 BoehnerIs Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader 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).