Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Thursday! 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.
President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — State Dept. employees targets of spyware Ohio Republican Party meeting ends abruptly over anti-DeWine protesters Jan. 6 panel faces new test as first witness pleads the Fifth MORE’s vendettas are splintering Republicans, alienating him from allies on Capitol Hill and stirring drama in the West Wing.
The president has spent the past five days relentlessly attacking John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE, the late GOP senator from Arizona who succumbed to brain cancer last year.
Over Twitter, in impromptu remarks to the press and at official White House events, Trump has lambasted McCain for dooming an effort to repeal ObamaCare, for his support for the Iraq War, and for his role in passing along the infamous “Steele dossier” to law enforcement.
The president also complained about not being thanked for McCain’s state funeral, an event planned in advance by McCain, which drew all of the living former presidents and united Republicans and Democrats in Washington over the course of several days in late August.
"I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve. I don’t care about this. I didn't get `thank you.’ That's OK. We sent him on the way, but I wasn’t a fan of John McCain." — Trump to factory workers at a tank manufacturing plant in Lima, Ohio
McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam and the son of a decorated Navy admiral, was a legend in Washington for his distinguished military career, his long record of political service and the force of his personality. Some of his former colleagues in the Senate are speaking out against Trump for the posthumous attacks on their old friend.
“Anybody who in any way tarnishes the reputation of John McCain deserves a whipping because most of those who would do the wrong thing about John McCain didn’t have the guts to do the right thing when it was their turn.” — Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonHerschel Walker calls off fundraiser with woman who had swastika in Twitter profile Georgia reporter says state will 'continue to be a premier battleground' Critical race theory becomes focus of midterms MORE (R-Ga.)
“I think the president's comments about Sen. McCain hurt him more than they hurt the legacy of Sen. McCain ... I don't like it when he says things about my friend John McCain." — Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Biden move to tap oil reserves draws GOP pushback MORE (R-S.C.)
Others, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellUS could default within weeks absent action on debt limit: analysis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal MORE (R-Ky.), have sought to avoid conflict with the president and have responded by praising McCain.
McConnell and Graham are up for re-election in 2020 and could face primary challenges. Neither has yet received a Trump endorsement.
Trump is relying on McConnell and the GOP-controlled Senate for some of his administration’s top priorities, including the confirmation of his conservative judicial nominees. At the moment, the president is torching goodwill among Republicans in the upper chamber.
Trump is also embroiled in a bizarre feud between White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne ConwayChristie says he was unable to reach Trump on Jan. 6 Watchdog cites 13 Trump officials who violated Hatch Act before 2020 election Ethics watchdog accuses Psaki of violating Hatch Act MORE and her husband, George Conway, a prominent Washington lawyer whose Twitter attacks against the president have ignited a nasty back-and-forth.
Conway has questioned Trump’s mental stability and alleged the president has “narcissistic personality disorder.”
“You. Are. Nuts.” — Conway in a tweet
Trump has blasted back, calling Conway “a stone cold LOSER & husband from hell” who is doing a “disservice” to his wife.
“He’s a whack job, no question about it.” — Trump
That’s left Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway in an awkward position. She defended her boss in an interview with Politico, saying her husband “is not a psychiatrist.”
“You think he shouldn’t respond when somebody, a non-medical professional accuses him of having a mental disorder? You think he should just take that sitting down?” — Kellyanne Conway
Tensions are running hot in Washington as the White House braces for special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG MORE’s report and Democrats ramp up their investigations and oversight of the Trump administration.
But the president on Monday will welcome a friend on the brink of an election, when embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joins meetings and a dinner in his honor over two days at the White House.
Tom Rogan: Trump is offering Netanyahu a big carrot; he must also wield a stick.
Administration officials and congressional leaders will address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) this weekend, as will the prime minister. Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoHaley has 'positive' meeting with Trump No time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Psaki: Sexism contributes to some criticism of Harris MORE and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman are expected to speak (The Times of Israel). Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPhotos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level MORE (D-Calif.) is slated to address the gathering little more than a week after the House controversy over remarks made by a freshman member of her caucus, Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarPhotos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles Omar to accept award Saturday as American Muslim Public Servant of 2021 GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level MORE (D-Minn.) that some considered anti-Semitic.
LEADING THE DAY
ECONOMY: As Trump headed to swing-state Ohio to tour a tank plant with a campaign-style list of administration achievements in mind, the Federal Reserve on Wednesday announced a hiatus for interest rate hikes in order to take stock of weaker global growth and less robust projections for the U.S. economy.
After tightening monetary policy over the past year, the nation’s central bank is now pausing to adjust (Reuters). Some market analysts predict the Fed may move to cut interest rates later this year, essentially unwinding the rate hike it adopted in December.
Asked about that possibility, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told reporters the current data do not support that scenario. “It is a great time for us to be patient and to watch and wait,” he told reporters.
The Fed lowered its growth projection to 2.1 percent this year.
Powell predicted the consumer-led U.S. economic expansion would bounce back after sluggish winter sales and consumer caution triggered during the 35-day partial government shutdown (The Associated Press).
CNBC: A growing list of U.S. companies say they are worried about the global economy.
> Manufacturing: On Wednesday, Ford Motor Co. announced it will build electric vehicles at the company’s factory in Flat Rock, Mich., and manufacture autonomous vehicles at an undisclosed site near Detroit, resulting in about 900 new jobs (The Associated Press).
The announcement of repackaged investments came in the wake of three days of Trump tweets critical of rival General Motors for shutting down a vehicle factory in Lordstown, Ohio. The president demanded that GM reopen the Ohio plant, and he lashed out at CEO Mary Barra and local United Auto Workers leader David Green.
> Foreign autos: A confidential Commerce Department report presented Trump a legal rationale to impose new tariffs on foreign cars as soon as this spring, a prospect opposed by some in Congress and inside the West Wing. Trump has about two months to decide whether to impose tariffs, which could reach as high as 25 percent, on imported autos predicated on a national security justification (Politico).
> Trade: U.S. and Chinese negotiators plan new rounds of talks in Washington and Beijing, aiming to lock up a trade deal by late April. Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to tackle omicron risks with new travel rules Mnuchin and McConnell discuss debt limit during brief meeting Major Russian hacking group linked to ransomware attack on Sinclair: report MORE and U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerBob LighthizerBiden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Whiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' MORE will fly to China next week (The Wall Street Journal).
On Wednesday, Trump said tariffs imposed on imported Chinese goods will remain in place even after a deal may be struck because China may fail to honor such agreements (The Hill). The president’s remarks dashed hopes that tariffs would soon be lifted.
“We’re not talking about removing them. We’re talking about leaving them for a substantial period of time, because we have to make sure that if we do the deal with China that China lives by the deal,” Trump told reporters. “They’ve had a lot of problems living by certain deals” (Bloomberg).
> Boeing: Investigations focused on the Seattle-based company expanded. The FBI joined the criminal investigation into the certification of the Boeing 737 Max 8, lending its resources to an inquiry by the Department of Transportation (The Seattle Times). And Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanProtection of critical military benefit shows bipartisanship can work Senators introducing bill to penalize Pentagon for failed audits Overnight Defense: National Guard boosts DC presence ahead of inauguration | Lawmakers demand probes into troops' role in Capitol riot | Financial disclosures released for Biden Pentagon nominee MORE is under internal department investigation for allegedly promoting the commercial interests of Boeing, his former employer, while serving at the Pentagon (The New York Times).
> Midwest flooding: Damage and losses in Nebraska, Iowa and the Upper Midwest from winter weather and flooding will exceed $1 billion (CBS News). Farm bankruptcies were already on the rise, and the agriculture sector has been pounded. In Nebraska alone, livestock losses are estimated at $400 million and crop losses at $440 million. Meat prices are on the rise nationwide (Lincoln Star Journal).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: More and more, the 2020 Democratic field is being dominated by progressive policies that have become more mainstream over time and are quickly becoming litmus tests for candidates, according to Mike Lillis and Max Greenwood.
Among ideas cheered by progressives that have made it into 2020 chatter are the Green New Deal, “Medicare for all,” reparations, abolishment of the Electoral College and court-packing — all of which have been on the “fringes of Democratic politics.”
When it comes to style, however, Democratic voters are largely looking for a nominee to stand up to Trump. In appearances, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisJoe Manchin should embrace paid leave — now The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden defends disappointing jobs report Harris's office undergoes difficult reset MORE (D-Calif) talks routinely about the ability to “prosecute” the president on a debate stage. Others are using messages of unity, namely former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).
> The Hill: Rep. Mark GreenMark GreenNearshoring: Panacea, quick fix or something in between? Cities become pawns in redistricting game GOP senators seek to block dishonorable discharges for unvaccinated troops MORE (R-Tenn.) announced Thursday that he will introduce a constitutional amendment limiting the number of Supreme Court seats to nine. The move is in response to a number of 2020 Democrats leaving the door open to expanding the bench and “court-packing.”
As Green notes, the court has had nine seats since 1869.
> Associated Press: Centrist or moderate? O’Rourke drives in both lanes:
“In a primary that has so far been defined by progressive energy, the former Texas congressman with a scant political resume is trying to avoid definition. He left a distinctly moderate record behind in Congress and, in the early days of his presidential campaign, has vowed to work with Republicans and woo voters who backed Donald Trump in 2016. But he’s also hit progressive talking points on everything from white privilege to marijuana legalization,” writes AP’s Will Weissert.
“The architects of his campaign insist he’s not interested in adhering to a particular ideological lane, and O’Rourke himself shuns party labels. But trying to have it both ways could leave Democratic voters with the impression that O’Rourke is a candidate with a split political personality,” Weissert adds.
More campaigns & politics … Former Vice President Joe Biden leads Trump by 10 points in a head-to-head matchup, according to a new poll. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Abortion access for 65M women at stake Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan Sanders urges Biden to delay Medicare premium hike linked to Alzheimer's drug MORE (I-Vt.), on the other hand, leads by two points (Emerson University)… Florida Democrat Andrew Gillum says O’Rourke “enjoys a set of privileges” that neither he nor Stacey Abrams of Georgia enjoys (The New York Times).
Even more politics … Harris received the Hollywood treatment on Wednesday at a fundraiser hosted by filmmaker and producer J.J. Abrams; $2,800 was the price of admission (Variety) … Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said he made sure his nine children were exposed to chickenpox and caught the disease instead of having them vaccinated. He says government should not dictate parents’ vaccination choices (CNN) … South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is officially exploring a run for the White House, has a Twitter account for his two rescue dogs — candidates’ canines are attention-getters in these early days of a crowded Democratic race (Quartz).
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WHERE AND WHEN
March Madness tips off at 12:15 p.m. with Louisville (7) vs. Minnesota (10).
The House meets at 2 p.m. for a pro forma session while lawmakers are out of Washington this week.
The Senate convenes at 2:10 p.m. for a pro forma session.
The president participates in a Business Roundtable meeting in Washington at 11 a.m. At 3:15 p.m., Trump signs an executive order and speaks about “improving free inquiry, transparency, and accountability on campus.”
Vice President Pence will be in Atlanta to tour a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office and speak to agents and community leaders. Pence will also headline a political event to support the reelection of Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) before flying back to Washington.
Pompeo meets with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem, and tours the U.S. Embassy there in the morning, then takes part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Yad Vashem. In the afternoon, Pompeo attends a reception for Jerusalem-based staff hosted by U.S. Ambassador Friedman and tours the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. With Netanyahu, the secretary visits the Western Wall and Tunnel. This evening, Pompeo attends a working dinner hosted by the prime minister.
The National Archives participates this evening in the 2019 Environmental Film Festival, showcasing three short films in the William G. McGowan Theater in Washington beginning at 7 p.m. On the screen: “The Plow that Broke the Plains,” about the Dust Bowl (1936, 29 minutes); “The River,” a classic documentary about the Mississippi River (1937, 32 minutes); and “Power and the Land,” a vivid portrait of rural American farm life (1940, 39 minutes). Ticket information HERE.
➔ Law: The Supreme Court seemed likely Wednesday to rule for a black Mississippi death row inmate whose prosecutor has a history of improperly excluding African-American jurors (The Associated Press). Justice Clarence Thomas, who almost never speaks in court, posed a question during the arguments (The Hill).
➔ Brexit: Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom travels to Brussels today to seek an extension to June 30 to withdraw from the European Union, raising the stakes that all sides can soon craft a negotiated divorce that has thus far eluded them (Bloomberg and The Associated Press).
➔ Guns: Less than a week after 50 people were shot and killed in two mosques by an accused white supremacist in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a ban on all military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles by April 11, along with a buy-back program for banned weapons (Reuters).
➔ Tech: Eyes in the skies? Some lawmakers worry that cameras installed in commercial airplane seats could be misused to snoop, hack and purloin private, proprietary data. Some airlines respond that cameras are deactivated and do not monitor passengers (CNN) … European Union regulators have hit Google with $1.7 billion antitrust fine (CNBC) … Social media giants run for cover as Washington gets “fed up” (Yahoo).
➔ Right to die: The California Sunday Magazine presents the results of six months of immersive reporting about the Final Exit Network (FEN), exploring the question “What makes a good death?” At the center of the story is Debra Koosed, who was diagnosed with dementia at age 65.
And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, we’re eager for some smart guesses about that iconic 1969 musical happening in New York.
Email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
Who was the governor of New York at the time of the original Woodstock?
- Ed Koch
- Nelson Rockefeller
- John V. Lindsay
- Thomas Dewey
In which city did Woodstock take place?
Which one of these musical acts did not perform at the four-day festival?
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
- Jefferson Airplane
- The Who
- Simon & Garfunkel
Which artist closed out the festival with a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which has been described as one of the defining moments of the ‘60s?
- Jerry Garcia
- Jimi Hendrix
- Pete Townshend
- John Fogerty