The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Fresh off Mueller win, Trump presses for GOP health care push




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Wednesday! 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.

With special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE's investigation in the rear view mirror in the eyes of President TrumpDonald John TrumpLiz Cheney: 'Send her back' chant 'inappropriate' but not about race, gender Booker: Trump is 'worse than a racist' Top Democrat insists country hasn't moved on from Mueller MORE, he turned his attention to a new-old topic du jour: health care, an issue that has plagued him and the GOP throughout his presidency.


As Alexander Bolton writes, a giddy Trump showed up on Capitol Hill on Tuesday fresh off 48 hours of football spiking after Mueller's probe turned up no evidence of collusion or coordination with Russia and declined to indict over obstruction of justice.


While the president mentioned the probe — telling GOP senators it was a "hoax" and declaring that he has been given a "clean bill of health," according to one member — he revived the subject of health care a day after the Department of Justice escalated a court battle over the Affordable Care Act.


It was a clear attempt by the president to leverage a sense of vindication in one arena to springboard to different terrain that left him frustrated.


"Politics is a lot like a lot of sports you play. Momentum matters, and he's got some momentum," Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerTrump puts hopes for Fed revolution on unconventional candidate Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Acosta on shaky ground as GOP support wavers MORE (R-N.D.) said. "Rather than using it to spike the football in the end zone, it's a good time to call the next play."


The president made it known he wanted this to be the issue Republicans take on. While in the presidential motorcade to the Capitol, and mere minutes before he met with Senate Republicans, he tweeted that the GOP "will become 'The Party of Healthcare!'"


However, the path for health care is a big question for Republicans after their trials and tribulations on the issue, including seeing Democratic seize it as their top campaign talking point en route to winning a majority in the House in 2018.


As Peter Sullivan reports, GOP lawmakers for the most part were reluctant to even talk about the Justice Department’s decision, which would dramatically change the way health care is delivered in the country. For the GOP, it shifted attention from a more welcome storyline and instead invited Democrats to attack Trump on terrain that crosses party lines among voters.


House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants History in the House: Congress weathers unprecedented week EU official in Canada says he feels 'at home' there because no one was shouting 'send him back' MORE (R-Calif.) deflected a question about the ObamaCare case at his leadership press conference and told reporters to call his office. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Funding a strong defense of our nation's democratic process can't wait The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE’s (R-Ky.) office had no immediate comment.


Democrats, meanwhile, are chomping at the bit to keep health care in the news, believing the GOP will struggle to match Trump's dreams on that topic.


"Well, they've got a ways to go," said Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDemocrats pledge to fight Trump detention policy during trip to border Democrats grill USDA official on relocation plans that gut research staff Trump's new labor chief alarms Democrats, unions MORE Jr. (D-Pa.).


Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDem senator describes 'overcrowded quarters,' 'harsh odor' at border facilities Top Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens MORE (D-N.Y.) pushed health care and climate change during his weekly press conference Tuesday, another example of the shift away from Mueller, citing issues that "affect normal Americans."


"We've always felt that the issues that affect average Americans — healthcare, climate change, jobs — is far more important to them and to us than what happens in an investigation,” he said. “Obviously, you know, we might have said a few different things here and there, but the bottom line is simple — in the 2018 elections, I don't know of a single House Democrat or … Senate Democrat who did a single ad on the investigation.”


Schumer added that the administration’s move ties an “anchor around the neck of every Republican for the next two years.”


The Washington Post: Based on public opinion and 2018 election results, the administration’s renewed focus on eliminating ObamaCare is a baffling political move.


Politico: White House ObamaCare reversal was made over Cabinet objections.


Additionally, Democratic presidential candidates quickly denounced the Justice Department action.


“In 2020, we need to elect a president who will make health care a right,” Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris faces pressure to define policy proposals Harris voices support for Puerto Rico protesters: 'I stand with them' What to expect when Mueller testifies: Not much MORE (D-Calif.) tweeted.


Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHarris faces pressure to define policy proposals Harris voices support for Puerto Rico protesters: 'I stand with them' Democrats slam Puerto Rico governor over 'shameful' comments, back protesters MORE (D-Mass.) added that Senate Democrats “won't back down. Health care is a basic human right, and we fight for basic human rights.”





CONGRESS: The White House and Republicans extended that victory strut on Tuesday, as the president’s first veto withstood House efforts to block his action to build a border wall, at the same time that Republicans defeated the Democrats’ Green New Deal on the Senate floor.


McConnell believes progressive proposals to battle climate change have become in their aspirational specifics an uncomfortable wedge between moderate Democratic senators and the party’s left-leaning base leading into the 2020 elections (The Hill).


Forty-three Democrats voted “present” on the Green New Deal, while Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Dems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Angus KingAngus Stanley KingPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Senate panel advances Pentagon chief, Joint Chiefs chairman nominees Overnight Defense: Highlights from Defense pick's confirmation hearing | Esper spars with Warren over ethics | Sidesteps questions on Mattis vs. Trump | Trump says he won't sell F-35s to Turkey MORE (I-Maine) voted with Republicans against the measure. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp Trump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report MORE of Maine is the only Republican who supported it on Tuesday. Jones and Collins are up for reelection next year.


In the House, 14 Republicans joined all Democrats in a 248-181 vote that failed to override Trump’s first veto — a margin far short of the two-thirds needed to nullify his emergency action to fund a wall (The Hill). Following the defeat, Pelosi said her caucus vowed to battle Trump and the administration through the budget appropriations process.


However, the fate of Trump's unilateral move to reprogram federal funds now heads to the courts, where his interpretation of the National Emergencies Act is being challenged .


The House Armed Services Committee took the largely symbolic step on Tuesday of denying the Pentagon the leeway to reroute $1 billion of appropriations for wall construction (The Hill).


Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithThe House Democrats who voted to kill impeachment effort Overnight Defense: Esper officially nominated for Defense secretary | Pentagon silent on Turkey getting Russian missile system | House, Senate headed for clash over defense bill House and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill MORE (D-Wash.) told the Pentagon’s chief financial officer that members of the panel do not “approve the proposed use of Department of Defense funds to construct additional physical barriers and roads or install lighting in the vicinity of the United States border.” Technically, the Pentagon can proceed with the spending (ABC News).


The New York Times: Military projects targeted for cuts total $12.9 billion, span nearly 50 states and more than two dozen countries.


Other news in Congress … A powerful House committee voted Tuesday to approve the reinstatement of net neutrality rules established during the Obama administration (The Hill)Boeing and aviation safety are under a microscope this afternoon during a hearing before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation and Space. The Transportation Department’s internal watchdog will testify that the Federal Aviation Administration’s oversight is about to be revamped (The Associated Press) … Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDemocrats should rise above and unify against Trump's tweets US-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite MORE (R-S.C.) said during a hearing he convened on Tuesday that the political stars are probably not aligned to enact a federal “red flag” law to allow police or family members to petition a judge to temporarily restrict access to firearms when someone poses a risk to themselves or others (NPR).






WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: During his visit to the Capitol on Tuesday, Trump told reporters the special counsel’s findings in the Russia probe continued to cheer him three days after Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham Barr10 questions for Robert Mueller Democratic lawmaker calls asylum, refugee programs 'crown jewel' of immigration system Trump says he won't watch Mueller testimony MORE released a brief summary.


“Well, the Mueller report was great. It could not have been better,” the president enthused, accompanied by McConnell and a smiling Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP wants commitment that Trump will sign budget deal Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime MORE (Mo.), the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. “It said ‘no obstruction, no collusion.’ It could not have been better” (The Hill).


The president has continued to describe Barr’s summary in the most favorable light, gliding past Mueller’s statement that the investigation of potential obstruction of justice did not exonerate him.


A new Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted after the Barr-Mueller findings were released on Sunday found that nearly half of all Americans still believe the president worked with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.


While Trump describes the 22-month investigation as open-and-shut about conspiracy and obstruction, Democratic lawmakers dispute his narrative and have asked Barr to publicly release the Mueller report by next week.


NBC News, citing a Justice Department official, reported on Tuesday that the attorney general will need “weeks, not months” to make portions of Mueller’s findings and evidence public. There are no department plans to provide a version to the White House first (The Wall Street Journal).


In the interim, former Trump campaign official George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosInquiry into origins of Russia investigation is a scam Trump accuses Democrats of crime amid rising calls for impeachment Comey: Trump peddling 'dumb lies' MORE, who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators during the Russia investigation, told Reuters he is considering withdrawing his guilty plea and revealed that his lawyers formally requested a presidential pardon.





North Korea: Bloomberg on Tuesday pulled back the curtain on a confusing tweet by the president last week in which he said he reversed Treasury Department sanctions imposed on two Chinese shipping companies accused of violating North Korea trade prohibitions. Administration officials persuaded Trump to unwind his tweeted decision, and then devised a misleading explanation to smooth things over (Bloomberg).


State Department: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo: There's 'no indication' Iran will change direction Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Trump confirms he authorized Rand Paul to negotiate with Iran MORE says the United States will expand its ban on aid to international groups that promote or provide abortions (The Hill). The secretary announced his decision to cut $210,000 in U.S. contributions to the Organization of American States after nine senators sent Pompeo a letter last month complaining about the organization’s support for abortion rights (The Washington Post).


Pompeo will testify this morning about his department’s budget before the House Appropriations Committee and again this afternoon before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to answer questions about the administration’s foreign policy strategy and budget request.


Puerto Rico: During Tuesday’s GOP luncheon in the Capitol, the president used charts to tell senators he believes Puerto Rico received too much federal disaster assistance (Bloomberg).


Publishing: How to leave the White House with a million dollar parachute, by Jason Zengerle, The New York Times Magazine.

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The sadly incomplete Mueller report, by Douglas Kmiec, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Trump just handed Pelosi the best birthday gift she could have asked for, by Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post.


The House meets at 10 a.m. to consider the Paycheck Fairness Act, which seeks to close salary gaps for women and minorities.


The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. and resumes consideration of the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2019.


The president will have lunch with Vice President Pence. Later, Trump will award the Medal of Honor posthumously to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins for conspicuous gallantry in Iraq in 2007.


The Bureau of Economic Analysis releases a much-watched international trade report for January at 8:30 a.m.


The Pew Research Center and the George Washington University School of Media & Public Affairs host a timely discussion titled, “Should the News Take Sides?” at 6 p.m. in the university’s Jack Morton Auditorium, 805 21st St. NW, Washington. Participants include Amy Mitchell, Pew director of journalism research; Janet H. Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates, Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chairman of the debates commission; and moderators Frank Sesno, director of the university’s Media & Public Affairs school, and Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. Information HERE.


USMCA is a landmark victory for American workers, farmers, businesses, with more free markets, fairer trade and robust economic growth. Urge Swift Passage of the USMCA Because a Win for Workers is a Win for America. Learn more.


State Watch: In the latest effort to battle New York State’s worst measles outbreak in decades, Rockland County on Tuesday declared a state of emergency and now bars minors who are unvaccinated from being in public places (The New York Times). … After winning their first Senate seat in 30 years, Arizona Democrats see signs that the desert is blooming blue. The party has hopes of claiming the state’s Electoral College votes for the first time since the Clinton administration (The Hill).


Marijuana: Legislation to allow banks to work with legal marijuana businesses is heading to the House floor after it was approved by the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday. Despite bipartisan support and industry backing, the legislation faces hurdles (The Hill). … Meanwhile, New Jersey vows it will be the 11th state to legalize marijuana, despite political headwinds. The evolving debate in states does not cut along red-blue political lines (The Associated Press).


Supreme Court: Justices in an 8-1 vote on Tuesday ruled to prevent American sailors injured during an al Qaeda bombing of the Navy destroyer USS Cole from collecting $314.7 million in damages from the government of Sudan for its alleged role in the 2000 attack (Reuters). … Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday rejected a bid by gun rights activists to block a ban issued by the Trump administration on “bump stock” gun attachments that enable semi-automatic weapons to be fired rapidly. The ban went into effect on Tuesday and is being challenged in lower courts (Reuters).


In the Know: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday slammed Jussie Smollett just hours after prosecutors dropped charges against the "Empire" actor, calling the dismissal a "whitewash of justice." The outgoing mayor said, "a grand jury could not have been clearer,” pointing to this month’s 16-count felony indictment. "Where is the accountability in the system?"


And finally … The peak bloom period for the cherry blossoms in Washington will arrive a little earlier, on April 1. It’s no April Fool’s joke, says the National Park Service — credit the warmer weather (


It also signals peak traffic-jam season around the Tidal Basin in the nation’s capital, so enjoy the blossoms, but pack your patience!