The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Tuesday! 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, Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver (CLICK HERE to subscribe!). On Twitter, find us at @joneasley, @asimendinger and @alweaver22.

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Democrats are embracing a handful of dramatic reforms that stem directly from their frustration at President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE’s victory in 2016.

The 2020 Democratic contenders and some liberals on Capitol Hill have embraced ideas such as expanding the Supreme Court, abolishing the Electoral College and lowering the voting age to 16. But some in the party are warning that those positions have the appearance of rigging the system out of the bitterness of defeat.

A quick rundown…

> There is roiling anger on the left that Trump has so far been able to appoint two new Supreme Court justices, particularly after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' Pelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Democrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence MORE (R-Ky.) blocked former President Obama’s nominee, Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' Law professor: Court-packing should be 'last resort' Here's how senators can overcome their hyperpartisanship with judicial nominees MORE, from getting a vote in 2016.

An idea that is gaining momentum on the left: Expand the court to “nullify” Trump’s conservative picks.

The Hill: Court packing becomes new litmus test on the left.

The Washington Post: Why court packing suddenly looks appealing to Democrats.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who is considering a presidential run, emphatically warned Democrats to back away from this idea during an interview with The Washington Post. Bennet said Democrats should focus on winning elections if they want to pick Supreme Court justices, not upending political norms because they lost.

“What I want to do is beat these guys so that we can begin to govern again.” — Bennet

The Hill: How many justices should be on the Supreme Court? It’s been a battle before.

> Democrats are furious that Trump won the presidency despite losing the popular vote. Many in the party view his election victory as illegitimate, pointing to the Russian interference campaign aimed at dampening enthusiasm for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump takes aim at media after 'hereby' ordering US businesses out of China Trump knocks news of CNN hiring ex-FBI official McCabe Taylor Swift says Trump is 'gaslighting the American public' MORE.

Their solution: Abolish the Electoral College.

“My view is that every vote matters. And the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting. And that means get rid of the Electoral College and everybody counts.” — Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (D-Mass.) last night at a CNN town hall event.

Several states are considering measures that would allocate their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, although some Democrats are warning this will further inflame the divide between the coasts and mainland America.

 

 

> Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Is there internet life after thirty? Pelosi says Dems 'have to be ready to throw a punch — for the children' in 2020 MORE (D-Calif.) and other Democrats in her caucus have advocated for lowering the voting age to 16. Many young voters skew liberal, so this would likely result in an influx of new Democratic voters.

Tom Davis: Are Democrats facing a Tea Party-style reckoning?

Robert Leonard and Matt Russell: What Dems need to do to win in the heartland.

Meanwhile, on the GOP side, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told The Washington Post he’s seriously considering a primary challenge against Trump, although he concedes it would likely be a doomed effort, at least at this point.

There are Republicans in Washington who are desperate to recruit a primary challenger to take on Trump. Many political insiders view that idea as a loser from the start, but some traditional Republicans would like to see a candidate run against Trump out of principle.

The Memo: Rough road awaits any Trump rival in GOP primary.

More from campaigns and politics … Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) faces sharp backlash from the left (The Hill) … But O’Rourke bested all of his 2020 rivals by raising $6.1 million in the first 24 hours of his campaign (The Hill) … Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersHickenlooper day-old Senate bid faces pushback from progressives Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Andrew Yang: News coverage of Trump a 'microcosm' of issues facing country MORE (I-Vt.) makes the case he’s electable (The Associated Press) … Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (D-Minn.) talks ‘Medicare for all’ and tech regulation (NPR) … Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate Gillibrand unveils mental health plan MORE (D-N.Y.) says she’s the best candidate to take on Trump (MSNBC) … Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity GOP group targets McConnell over election security bills in new ad MORE (R-Mo.) has been disinvited from a local GOP event after voting to revoke Trump’s emergency declaration (The Kansas City Star).

LEADING THE DAY

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The president ratcheted up pressure on General Motors (GM) again on Monday, urging the company to engage in talks to reopen a shuttered plant in Lordstown, Ohio, one day after he separately blamed the company’s CEO and a local union leader for the closure.

Trump turned to Twitter to jawbone GM and United Automobile Workers leaders to start negotiations “now” rather than waiting until the fall, when the union's contract runs out (The Hill).

 

 

Trump in the past pledged to preserve jobs in the Ohio county in which the Lordstown plant is located, which colors some of his political messaging in a key swing state. The president plans to fly on Wednesday to Lima, Ohio, to visit a military tank plant (Bloomberg).

Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Stocks sink as Trump fights with Fed, China The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic field narrows with Inslee exit MORE (D-Ohio), who is contemplating running for president, said he was “pissed” about Trump’s GM tweets and called his exchanges and finger-pointing at the union “a distraction.” The plant is located in Ryan’s district (Yahoo Finance).

O’Rourke seized on Trump’s public friction with Ohio’s auto union leader, David Green, and showed up Monday in Lordstown to defend him (The Washington Post).

> Arts & public broadcasting: In the fiscal 2020 budget he sent to Congress, the president renewed his call to pull federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, reprising evergreen proposals offered by a series of GOP presidents (The Hill).

> Presidential largesse: Trump tweeted an image of his check for $100,000 to the Department of Homeland Security as a donation this year drawn from his $400,000 federal salary. Past Trump salary contributions were given to the National Park Service and the departments of Education, Transportation, Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services.

> Student loans: The Trump administration on Monday proposed changes to the Higher Education Act that would set new limits on federal student loans taken out by parents and graduate students as part of a plan to curb the cost of college (The Associated Press). The idea is unlikely to gain momentum in the Democratic-controlled House.

> Polling: Many political analysts believe the 2020 election could hinge on the health of the economy, which means Trump saw favorable signs in a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, in which 71 percent of respondents say the economy is in good shape. That’s the highest share to say so since February 2001, and the best rating of Trump's term. Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center found that white evangelical Protestants continue to give the president high marks.

> Nominations: The president on Monday announced his intention to nominate Washington lawyer Christopher Landau as U.S. ambassador to Mexico. The previous ambassador, Roberta Jacobson, left the State Department in May (Reuters).

Trump continued Monday on a multi-day Twitter tear, criticizing former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden evokes 1968, asks voters to imagine if Obama had been assassinated Biden blasts Trump's 'embarrassing' actions heading into G-7 summit Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates MORE, who is widely expected to enter the race for the White House, calling him a “low I.Q. individual” (The Hill). Trump also asserted that he thinks the news media blame him for the murders of 50 people in two New Zealand mosques last week, carried out by an Australian white supremacist gunman (The Hill).

            Addendum: The House Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing on the rise of white nationalism; no date has been set (The Hill).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

INVESTIGATIONS: The last prosecutor on Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE’s team to have worked on the case involving Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn has left the special counsel’s team (Yahoo News).

The departure of counterterrorism prosecutor Zainab Ahmad is the latest sign that Mueller’s probe appears to be winding down, although the special counsel’s office said Ahmad “will continue to represent the office on specific pending matters that were assigned to her during her detail.”

Last week, Andrew Weissmann, the top prosecutor in the case against Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortEx-Trump campaign aide Rick Gates testifies against former Obama counsel Gregory Craig Trial of ex-Obama White House counsel suddenly postponed Top Mueller probe prosecutor to join Georgetown Law as lecturer MORE, concluded his service with the special counsel.

Meanwhile, be on the lookout today for new documents pertaining to the investigation into Trump’s former attorney Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenCapitol Police advised Gaetz against holding open events I'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Wyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations MORE, who will begin a three-year prison sentence in May. A federal judge has ordered prosecutors to release redacted copies of search warrants and other documents tied to an FBI raid on Cohen’s properties (The Hill).

Reuters: Why an unbuilt Moscow Trump tower caught Mueller’s attention.

USA Today-Suffolk University: Half of Americans say Trump is victim of a “witch hunt,” as trust in Mueller erodes.

More from the investigations front … Trump’s long history with Deutsche Bank (The New York Times) … House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerPoll: Majority wants Trump out, but not through impeachment Second Democrat representing Trump district backs impeachment GOP memo deflects some gun questions to 'violence from the left' MORE (D-N.Y.) says he’s “encouraged” by the response he’s received from a documents request that is part of a sprawling investigation into key figures in Trump world (The Hill) … Democratic lawmakers are calling for a new investigation into top Interior Department officials (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

The retirement crisis is real. The life insurance industry backs a House Democratic measure that would require that employers give more Americans access to retirement savings plans at work, by Susan K. Neely, president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2TbgmW5

Conservatives face a tough fight as Big Tech’s censorship expands, by Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor PETA billboard in Baltimore calls Kushner a 'rich pest' Dick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report MORE, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2TaO3at

Boeing debacle shows need to investigate Trump-era corruption, by Jeff Hauser and Eleanor Eagan, opinion contributors, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2HGwEEd

WHERE AND WHEN

The House next meets at 2 p.m. on Thursday.

The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. for a pro forma session.

The president welcomes President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, elected last year, to the White House for meetings, followed by an afternoon joint press conference at 1:45 p.m. Trump, along with the first lady, also is expected to receive an update on the opioid crisis and will participate in the ceremonial swearing-in of Naomi Rao to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Vice President Pence today tours Midwest flooding areas in Nebraska and visits a local shelter and resource distribution center before he flies back to Washington. Trump and Pence are focused this week on those impacted by record floodwaters in multiple states.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBill Maher says he's 'glad' David Koch is dead Trump spurs new wave of economic angst by escalating China fight Trump on North Korean projectile launches: Kim 'likes testing missiles' MORE is traveling through March 23 to Kuwait City, Jerusalem and Beirut.

The Federal Reserve begins a two-day policy meeting today.

ELSEWHERE

Brexit: The United Kingdom’s divorce from the European Union, facing a March 29 deadline, was thrown into further turmoil on Monday when House of Commons Speaker John Bercow ruled out another vote on a Brexit deal proposed by Prime Minister Theresa May. Parliament rejected her plan twice before. In a surprise ruling, Bercow said he would not allow a third Brexit vote in the coming days on "substantially the same" motion lawmakers rejected last week (BBC). The U.K. is due to leave the EU in little more than a week, prompting ministers to warn of a looming "constitutional crisis" (BBC). EU leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday to weigh whether to grant Britain an extension beyond this month’s deadline.

Media: Rupert Murdoch is on his Hollywood farewell tour, dismantling 21st Century Fox after a 34-year run that saw the former tabloid publisher reshape the entertainment and cable news industry (Los Angeles Times) … Former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile will join Fox News as a contributor (Mediaite).

Tech: Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch 10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall Juan Williams: Trump, his allies and the betrayal of America MORE (R-Calif.) is suing Twitter and some of its users and seeking more than $250 million in damages over allegations the platform is “shadow banning” conservatives (Fox News) … YouTube has removed tens of thousands of videos after the New Zealand mosque shooter’s video of the massacre went viral on its website. The company convened an emergency meeting of top executives to deal with the crisis, but as soon as they would delete one video, another would pop up (The Washington Post) … Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenDOJ to Supreme Court: Trump decision to end DACA was lawful Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign Trump casts uncertainty over top intelligence role MORE is warning that the U.S. is unprepared to deal with foreign cyberattacks (The Hill) … Facebook is struggling to establish its local news service because of the dearth of local media outlets (The Associated Press) … MySpace says it mistakenly lost years of user-uploaded music (NPR).

Economics: The U.S. academic community paid tribute on Monday to Princeton University professor Alan Krueger, who died by suicide over the weekend at age 58. Krueger served as an economic adviser to former Presidents Clinton and Obama (The New York Times), and was widely respected for his research, including in labor economics (Bloomberg Opinion). “Krueger’s range was so broad that he even wrote a book on the economics of terrorism and a paper (with Marie Connolly) on the economics of rock and roll.” Krueger’s book on the subject is set for release in June.

 

THE CLOSER

And finally … C-SPAN today celebrates its 40th anniversary of live gavel-to-gavel cable television coverage of the U.S. Congress, beginning with coverage of the House on March 19, 1979.

The nonprofit cable innovation brings Americans closer to House and Senate floor debates, committee hearings and live coverage of events at which America’s leaders and candidates outline up-to-the-minute perspectives.

At its outset, C-SPAN was the brainchild in 1977 of journalist Brian Lamb, the founding CEO, now retired. At its launch, the network had a staff of four employees, including Lamb, and a shoe-string annual budget of about $450,000.

With nonpartisan, unedited broadcasting, C-SPAN has brought the world closer to evolving dramas over four decades, from the Persian Gulf War debate in 1991 to congressional events following the 9/11 terror attacks; from the seismic transfer of power from Democrats to Republicans in the House in 1995 to the shift again to Democrats in 2007 and 2019 and the election (twice) of Pelosi, the first female Speaker.

In 1998, viewers watched the House debate and then pass articles of impeachment against former President Clinton as well as his acquittal by the Senate. In 2001, former Democratic presidential nominee Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreOcasio-Cortez blasts Electoral College as a 'scam' 2020 Democrats release joint statement ahead of Trump's New Hampshire rally Deregulated energy markets made Texas a clean energy giant MORE and senator from Tennessee presided as the House counted electoral votes following the unprecedented ballot recount in Florida, which led to his defeat in a Supreme Court decision and the election of former President George W. Bush.

C-SPAN says it gives viewers a front-row seat to democracy and history. Commentators, lawmakers, presidents, federal officials, foreign heads of state and journalists are among those who agree.

Karen Tumulty: Happy birthday C-SPAN! We need you more than ever.