The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings

 

 

 

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 Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver (CLICK HERE to subscribe!). On Twitter, find us at @asimendinger and @alweaver22.

 

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Happy birthday to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Democrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul MORE (D-Calif.), who is 79 today!



Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerLewandowski 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 Mueller report fades from political conversation MORE’s Russia investigation may be over, but new political battles are just beginning between Congress and the executive branch.

 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE on Monday took aim at Democratic lawmakers and the news media at the same time Pelosi and key committee overseers met to assess their footing when it comes to investigations tied to Mueller’s evidence. In the interim, Pelosi urged her colleagues on Monday to talk about Democrats’ policy agenda, not Russia.

 

House Democrats say they want the public release of the special counsel’s findings and evidence in a week, and they want Attorney General William Barr to testify about the contents of his four-page letter summarizing Mueller’s finding that there was no Trump-Russia conspiracy behind the 2016 election, as well as Barr’s decision that there is no basis for a criminal case against Trump alleging obstruction of justice.

 

The Hill: Democrats face a dilemma.

NBC News: Six Democratic committee chairs in the House seek Mueller report by April 2

The Hill: Barr is at the center of a political storm.

NPR: Impeachment action less likely.

 

Senate Republicans say they back the president and believe some of their Democratic colleagues are Trump-fixated extremists who persist in chasing phantoms.

 

“It’s over. And I say this gently to the president, I will say: When you get what you want, it’s time to move on and talk about other issues. …I know some of my Democratic colleagues will not leave it alone. Some of them have two speeds: hostile and smart-ass, and they’re never going to leave it alone because they didn’t want the American people to pick Donald Trump to be president.” — Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.)

 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Overnight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort GOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi MORE (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s most outspoken allies in Congress, says Barr has agreed to testify to his committee on an unspecified date.

 

“He said he'd be glad to come, just give him some time to figure out, you know, as soon as possible, but thoroughly vet the report and make sure we don't compromise anybody's security," Graham told reporters on Monday afternoon.

 

Barr will confer with Mueller about what should be made public, Graham added (The Hill). Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi Democratic senators quietly hope Biden wins over rivals Grassley: Kavanaugh classmate didn't contact Senate panel MORE (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, asked Barr by letter to release the Mueller material by April 1 (The Hill).

 

The Judiciary chairman also wants to focus on the Justice Department’s Russia probe before Mueller was appointed, including subjects that animate the president: the FBI’s handling of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonQueer Marine veteran launches House bid after incumbent California Rep. Susan Davis announces retirement Poll: Trump neck and neck with top 2020 Democrats in Florida Former immigration judge fined, temporarily banned from federal service for promoting Clinton policies MORE’s emails and what Republicans say was evidence of political bias inside the Justice Department against Trump.

 

Reuters: Graham wants to “unpack the other side of the story” through the appointment of a new special counsel.

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers run into major speed bumps on spending bills Budowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet MORE (R-Ky.) blocked a resolution on Monday backed by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-N.Y.) calling for the Mueller report to be publicly disclosed. McConnell argued that Barr and Mueller are working toward release of information and should be given time to complete their consultations (The Hill).

 

Trump said on Monday that “it wouldn’t bother me at all” if the special counsel’s report is publicly released (NBC News). Despite hundreds of tweets and rhetoric calling the Russia investigation a politically-stoked “witch hunt,” the president also commented that Mueller acted honorably during the 22-month probe, which produced 34 criminal indictments (The Hill).

 

But the president signaled he’s not in a forgiving mood. “There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things, I would say treasonous things against our country,” he told reporters without being specific.

 

Jordan Fabian reports that Trump and his supporters appear eager to exact revenge on certain congressional Democrats and those perceived to be partisan critics. They’ve suggested some lawmakers and journalists should lose their jobs for their roles in inquiries about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and its efforts to help the Trump campaign (The Hill).

 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Schiff says Trump intel chief won't comply with subpoena over whistleblower Sunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate MORE (D-Calif.) is one such target.

 

 

 

 

What the president, the Justice Department and the White House counsel believe the public should see from Mueller’s findings remains vague, and a resolution between the legislative and executive branches is expected to be prolonged. It is possible arguments about disclosure wind up in court.

 

Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said on Monday he would not want the president to publicly release his written answers to Mueller’s questions when no criminal case was brought against the president.

 

“This is something, frankly, that should never have happened. This is a two-year waste of taxpayer time and dollars. They spent over $25 million on this just to find out that there was nothing there. This should never happen to another president, and we want to make sure that the institution of the president is protected.” — White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on NBC’s Today.

 

Sanders also said there has been no discussion of pardoning former Trump aides who wound up in Mueller’s crosshairs (The Hill).

 

More coverage The news media are under intense criticism in some quarters after the Barr-Mueller findings were released on Sunday (The Hill). Trump’s supporters turned their fire on news outlets that won Pulitzer Prizes for investigative reporting about Trump and Russia (NBC News). … Why was obstruction a hard case for Mueller to make? (Reuters) … The Supreme Court denied an unnamed foreign government-owned corporation’s request to appeal Mueller’s subpoena (CNN) … Profile of Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinDemocrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Overnight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort Top Oversight Democrat demands immigration brass testify MORE (D-Md.), a key member of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Reform committees (The Hill).



 

 



LEADING THE DAY

CAMPAIGN & POLITICS: Trump received a major boost politically with the release of the Mueller report, giving his 2020 reelection bid a shot in the arm it desperately needed, says Niall Stanage. More than anything, the report's release and the declaration that there was no collusion have given ammunition to Trump and his allies, who are not sparing any of it in the midst of a rare positive news cycle (The Hill).

 

Republicans were jubilant as they returned to Capitol Hill on Monday after a week-long recess, declaring that the president was the outright winner, regardless of what the report said about obstruction of justice. To Republicans, this is now in the rearview mirror and allows them to focus on anything else under the sun.

 

"It's a pretty big sigh of relief. More than anything, we're all relieved that it's over," Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerPrimary challenges show potential cracks in Trump's GOP Castro, Steyer join pledge opposing the Keystone XL pipeline EPA proposes rolling back states' authority over pipeline projects MORE (R-N.D.) told the Morning Report.

 

 

 

 

Republican lawmakers are pleased with the report not only for the president's sake but for their own as well. Senate Republicans are facing a tough map in 2020 as they prepare to defend 22 seats, including a couple in perilous territory. They are breathing easy.

 

"It should let a lot of the air out of the room," said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet NRA says Trump administration memo a 'non-starter' Trump administration floats background check proposal to Senate GOP MORE (R-S.D) "I think it's going to help him politically, and I think it helps our members who are running for reelection."

 

For Democrats, though, they claim this doesn't change anything on the 2020 scene, both in their nomination fight and in their push to recapture the upper chamber. Just as they did in 2018, many believe their best chance is in not using the investigations as a pre-eminent focus but rather doing what they did in 2018 to take back the House: talking to voters about health care and other pocketbook issues.

 

 

 

 

"What's telling is before this report even came out, the question about the Mueller investigation came up very infrequently on the campaign trail," said Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenProgressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum Senators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Democratic candidates are building momentum for a National Climate Bank MORE (D-Md.), who chaired the Senate Democratic campaign arm in 2018.

 

"If you were listening to these candidates before the Mueller report came out, 99 percent of the time they were talking about health care, protecting people with pre-existing conditions, clean energy, investing in early education. Those are the issues that have been front and center, and I think those will remain the focus."

 

Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoMarijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis Female Democratic Senate candidates in Colorado ask DSCC to rescind Hickenlooper endorsement Democrats press Trump Treasury picks on donor disclosure guidelines MORE (D-Nev.), the newly minted chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said that during a recess period prior to the report's release, no one asked her about the issue.

 

> NBC News: Democratic primary voters ask candidates about health care, not Mueller report:

 

"Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll CNN announces details for LGBTQ town hall Manchin: 'Beto O'Rourke is not taking my guns away from me' MORE answered more than 100 questions from voters in eight states on his first swing as a presidential candidate last week, and not one was about Russia or Mueller, including during the two days after the report was turned in."

 

Nevertheless, the news has also given a boost in morale to the House GOP conference. Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeSenate spending talks go off the rails as soon as they begin Social determinants of health — health care isn't just bugs and bacteria Republicans suffer whiplash from Trump's erratic week MORE (R-Okla) says the members “feel like this settles the issue” that plagued the president for nearly two years

 

"How many times does a president have to prove there was no collusion?" Cole said, referring to the multiple investigations, including the Mueller probe and those in the Senate and House. "I think there are a lot of nails in this particular coffin."

 

Washington Post: Win-win? Trump and 2020 Democrats both argue the end of the Mueller probe offers advantages

 

 

 

 

> The Hill: Supreme Court takes another crack at partisan gerrymandering issue

 

On Tuesday the justices will look with a new set of eyes at whether politicians can go too far and unconstitutionally manipulate the lines of voting districts to favor one political party over another.

 

A Republican challenge to the way Democratic officials in Maryland drew the state’s 6th Congressional District is now back before the court as well as a challenge out of North Carolina. In that case, Democratic voters are the ones claiming they were harmed when GOP state officials ordered new congressional districts be drawn to benefit Republican candidates.  

 

> Washington Post: Obama cautions freshman House Democrats about the price tag of liberal policies.

 

In other political news ... Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Energy: Trump to revoke California's tailpipe waiver | Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback | Trump officials finalize rule allowing fewer inspectors at pork plants Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback MORE (D-N.M.) announced on Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2020, leaving the Senate seat he has held since 2009 up for grabs. Rep. Ben Ray Luján said that he will consider possible run for the seat (The Hill) … Rep. José Serrano revealed that he has Parkinson’s Disease and will not run for reelection in 2020 (The Hill).

 

Elsewhere on 2020 scene… Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., shows signs of emerging from the Democratic pack (The Hill) ... Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben Gallego2020 Democrats raise alarm about China's intellectual property theft Harris picks up endorsement from influential lawmaker as support slips Democratic lawmaker: Russia, China benefitting from continued US troop presence in Afghanistan MORE (D-Ariz.), averting primary brawl, won't run for the Senate (Arizona Republic) ... Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Sinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico MORE (R-Maine) will get primaried, says pro-Trump Republican in Maine who wants to take her on (Bangor Daily News) ... O'Rourke hires Jennifer O'Malley Dillon, former Obama deputy campaign manager, to run his campaign (The New York Times).



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Beyond Mueller report discussions inside the administration, there are other headlines this morning.

 

Intelligence: Vice President Pence talked Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsTrump has named more ex-lobbyists to Cabinet in 3 years than Obama, Bush did in full terms: report Hillicon Valley: FCC approves Nexstar-Tribune merger | Top Democrat seeks answers on security of biometric data | 2020 Democrats take on Chinese IP theft | How Google, Facebook probes are testing century-old antitrust laws Congress should defy Dan Coats' last request on phone surveillance MORE, the director of national intelligence, out of quitting late in 2018, NBC News reports, citing unnamed current and former senior administration officials.

 

Health Care: Trump is now asking the courts to erase Obamacare in what is seen as a risky 2020 election move. Switching gears, the Justice Department asked a judge to throw out the entire law (Bloomberg).

 

High-speed internet: The Federal Communications Commission’s central policy objective has been expansion of access to high-speed internet for millions of Americans who remain unconnected. But a recent draft report is raising eyebrows as the commission’s Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, turns to the conclusions to justify a deregulatory agenda, including the repeal of net neutrality (The Hill).

 

Federal Reserve: Trump sparked backlash across the political spectrum with his decision on Friday to nominate ally and Heritage Foundation visiting fellow Stephen Moore to join the Federal Reserve Board (The Hill).

 

Trade: Trump will meet this afternoon with members of the House GOP whip team to discuss pending ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), negotiated and signed with Mexico and Canada last year to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. A flurry of trade activity in the administration begins this week, including continued U.S.-China negotiations set to continue in Beijing (CNBC).

 

Guns: A federal ban on bump stocks, which are devices that allow semi-automatic rifles to be fired continuously with one pull of a trigger, begins today unless a court intervenes. The Justice Department issued a rule in December, deciding that existing prohibitions against fully automatic weapons also covered bump stocks. Owners were given 90 days to turn in or destroy them, the deadline for which is today (CNN).



The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!



OPINION

Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Nadler's House committee holds a faux hearing in search of a false crime House Democrats seeking Sessions's testimony in impeachment probe MORE likely made the correct legal decision, by criminal defense attorney David Oscar Markus, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2JItfYi

 

 

How the American judicial system saved Trump, despite his behavior, by former federal prosecutor Gregory J. Wallance, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2Oq5Zgm

 

 

It’s time to let go of collusion. There’s a bigger message from the Mueller findings, by Chuck Lane, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2U0dTmy



WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 10 a.m. and is scheduled to cast votes to consider overriding the president’s veto of a resolution of disapproval about his executive effort to reprogram appropriations to finance a border wall. The Associated Press reports the override effort is unlikely to succeed.

 

 

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of Bridget S. Bade to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

 

 

The president heads to the Capitol to participate in the weekly Senate Republican policy lunch at 1 p.m. He meets with House Republicans to discuss trade at 3:15 p.m.

 

 

Pence will fly to Huntsville, Ala., to speak at a National Space Council meeting and tour the U.S. Space and Rocket Center before returning to Washington.

 

 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran Trump doubles down on Graham: 'How did going into Iraq work out?' MORE holds a news conference at the Department of State at 9:15 a.m. He meets with Uighur Muslims impacted by the human rights crisis in Xinjiang, China, in the afternoon. The secretary meets with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at 5:15 p.m.

 

 

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Biden allies: Warren is taking a bite out of his electability argument Budowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat MORE tonight headlines the Biden Courage Awards, sponsored by the Biden Foundation and It’s On Us, a group founded with former President Obama in 2014 to focus on sexual assault prevention. College students and young activists will receive awards in New York City at the Russian Tea Room at 6 p.m.



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ELSEWHERE

Brexit: In an unusual move, members of the U.K. Parliament will vote on a range of Brexit options on Wednesday, giving lawmakers a chance to indicate whether it can agree on a deal with closer ties to the European Union, and then try to push the government led by Prime Minister Theresa May in that direction (Reuters). May faces a chorus of predictions that her country will be forced to divorce the EU with no exit agreement in place, and that her remaining time in office could be short (BBC).

 

Israel: Trump on Monday signed a proclamation to recognize the disputed Golan Heights as Israeli territory in an election boost for visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Reuters). With the prime minister by his side, Trump also said the United States supports Israel’s bomb strikes on Monday against “Hamas terror targets” across the Gaza Strip, initiated by the Israeli military as retaliation for an earlier rocket attack that wounded seven people near Tel Aviv (The Guardian).


Venezuela: Two Russian military planes landed in Venezuela on Saturday, reportedly carrying dozens of troops and large amounts of equipment to a country caught in a crisis of governance. On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Russia to "cease its unconstructive behaviour" there. "The secretary told Russian Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov that the United States and regional countries will not stand idly by as Russia exacerbates tensions in Venezuela," the State Department said. Russian planes were sent to "fulfill technical military contracts," Russia's Sputnik news agency reported. Russia is an ally of Venezuela, lending the country billions of dollars and backing its oil industry and military (BBC).



THE CLOSER

And finally … Blink and you miss it. The panda mating season lasts just 24 to 72 hours this spring, which explains why Washington’s National Zoo is busy surveilling the flirtations and amorous signals of female Mei Xiang and male Tian Tian, monitoring estrogen levels, pool splashing and bleating sounds for signs of what one news anchor on Monday described as “hooking up.”

 

Odds are a natural prelude to a little panda won’t happen (vets usually artificially inseminate Mei Xiang) (NBC4). The number of zoo births of giant pandas worldwide is low because ardor and opportunity in captivity are hard to align  (Phys.org). Mei Xiang and Tian Tian have produced just three surviving cubs since they arrived in Washington together in 2000 (The Washington Post).