The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition — Trump rallies for second term on 'promises kept'

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. TGIF! 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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President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press MORE’s reelection themes ricocheted throughout a Grand Rapids, Mich., arena Thursday night, leaping from outrage at perceived enemies and joy about Republicans’ victories, new jobs, a border wall and a renewed call to eliminate ObamaCare. 

Three-quarters of the way through a 96-minute speech, an ebullient Trump ad libbed the seven words that summed up his pitch for a second term.

“We are fighting and working and winning.”

“We are making America great.”

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The conclusions drawn from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s investigation this month demand “accountability,” he said, arguing to appreciative laughter that it was all “ridiculous bullshit,” and that unnamed Democrats “spy on me” and want to “take something great away from people” (The Hill). 

Trump, during his first political speech since the Mueller probe ended, defined what he sees at stake for voters in next year’s election: 5.5 million new jobs since his election, including his tally of 600,000 new manufacturing jobs; a boost for the U.S. auto industry in a state where it’s key, plus defense of autoworkers; and an end to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump’s morning-in-America narrative may dim if slower growth continues into 2020. The government revised GDP downward in the fourth quarter of 2018 on Thursday, offering analysts and investors more ammunition to fret about a possible recession ahead (The Hill).  

“Everyone is benefiting,” the president insisted. “Now I’ve done more than I ever promised I’d ever do so the [presidential] debates should be easy.”

Democrats, he said, are “extreme,” “socialist” and “sick people. 

The only 2020 presidential opponent he mentioned by name was Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJoe Biden lost his fastball — can he get it back before South Carolina? Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes Budget hawks frustrated by 2020 politics in entitlement reform fight MORE (D-Mass.), whom he called “Pocahontas,” asserting her campaign has sputtered from the start because of his criticisms.

He lampooned House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump DOJ lawyers resign en masse over Roger Stone sentencing MORE (D-Calif.), calling him “pencil neck,” and he mocked House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTrump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify Nadler demands answers from Barr on 'new channel' for receiving Ukraine info from Giuliani Trump predicts Ocasio-Cortez will launch primary bid against Schumer MORE (D-N.Y.) as an old Manhattan nemesis intent on scouring through “every single deal, every single paper” from his businesses to hunt for “mistakes.”

The Washington Post: How Trump inflated his net worth to lenders, investors.

“Every day, we make good on the motto, promises made, promises kept,” the president said after ticking through a lengthy list of favored GOP policies — from immigration restrictions, to a battle against late-term abortions, and the administration’s isolation of Iran and defense of Israel.

“Four more years!” his audience shouted in unison

“U.S.A.!”

The Hill: `Collusion delusion is over’

The Associated Press: Trump presents himself as “vindicated and vindictive”

The New York Times: President relies on four-page summary of still-secret 300-page Mueller report.

NBC News: Michigan highlights promise and peril for Trump in 2020.

The Hill: Trump’s job approval rating hovers where it’s always been.

 



 



LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenJoe Biden lost his fastball — can he get it back before South Carolina? Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes Bloomberg hits Sanders supporters in new ad MORE sounds keenly aware during recent speeches that jumping into the Democratic presidential race in a few weeks may feel more like a cage fight than a coronation. Instead of talking about the future, a politician with a track record half-a-century long is a candidate who will be compelled to defend what’s long past.

Amie Parnes and Scott Wong report that Biden would be trying to defeat a half-dozen current Democratic senators who have forged their own relationships with colleagues and potential donors and endorsers. The newcomers’ records and experience may be slimmer, but in the history of modern presidential politics, that can be an asset. Just ask former Kansas Republican Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, a decorated war hero and Washington insider who failed to unseat an incumbent president in 1996. 

It’s a different Senate today … and where that center of gravity lands [for Biden], I think it’s too early to tell,” said 47-year-old Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate report says Obama officials were 'not well-postured' to respond to Russian hacking Democratic senators ask banks to prohibit funding Arctic drilling Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle MORE (D-N.M.). “I have a lot of respect for him. My bias is that we have this new, incredible generation of leadership and that in 2020, my hope is that the race will reflect that. I would like to see the nominee reflect that.”

Biden is encouraged by recent polls showing he leads a crowded Democratic primary field as an unofficial candidate in what would be his third bid for the White House. A new Harvard CAPS/Harris poll indicates the former vice president would be the front-runner in the early going (The Hill).

> Sunday marks the end of the first quarter of campaign fundraising reported to the Federal Election Commission. This year it’s an especially important barometer of Democratic presidential candidates’ early momentum and potential viability (Politico).

In other political news … Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetToward 'Super Tuesday' — momentum, money and delegates Trump seeks split-screen moments in early primary states Sanders calls James Carville 'a political hack' MORE (D-Colo.) says he may yet jump into 2020 presidential race. “I’m very inclined to do it and we’re looking at it,” he said during a Thursday interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” … Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) officially launches his presidential bid on Saturday during rallies in El Paso, Houston and Austin (The Houston Chronicle) … Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony US defense chief says Taliban deal 'looks very promising' but not without risk Lawmakers wary as US on cusp of initial deal with Taliban MORE (R-S.C.) kicks off his reelection campaign on Saturday with guest endorser Vice President Pence (The Associated Press).

And more 2020 developments ... The first Democratic presidential primary debates, live over two nights, will take place beginning in 89 days, televised by NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo from Miami on June 26 and 27 (The Hill). Candidates must qualify under new Democratic National Committee parameters to participate … Tax Notes is helpfully posting tax returns released by presidential candidates HERE.



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS: Senate Republicans are gearing up as early as next week to trigger the so-called nuclear option to speed up the confirmation of Trump’s district court judges and sub-Cabinet nominees. The question is not whether the majority can round up the votes to make the change, but how Democrats decide to retaliate.

When the shoe was on the other foot in 2013 and Republicans were in the minority, they shut down the Senate floor when former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBottom line Harry Reid: 'People should not be counting Joe Biden out of the race yet' Warren highlights work with Obama, Harry Reid in new Nevada ad MORE (D-Nev.) embraced the rules alteration to essentially eliminate a 60-vote filibuster threshold for circuit court judges nominated by former President Obama (The Hill). 

At that time, McConnell railed at Reid, warning that he was heading down a path that would lead to catastrophe for the upper chamber.

“No majority leader wants written on his tombstone that he presided over the end of the Senate,” the Kentucky senator argued more than five years ago. “If [Reid] caves to the fringes and let’s this happen, I’m afraid that’s exactly what they’ll write. Because, in his own words on the Senate, `break[ing] the rules to change the rules is un-American.’ ” 

> The president dragged ObamaCare back into the political arena this week, challenging Republican lawmakers to support eliminating current law through the courts. On Thursday, Trump said he asked GOP Sens. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenators to meet with Zelensky after impeachment trial GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' What the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber MORE (Wyo.), Rick Scott (Fla.) and Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' MORE (La.) to “form a really great plan” to replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, adding there’s “no rush.”

Any such plan is unlikely to clear the Senate and would be a political gift to Democrats. It was an ambition that crashed and burned when Republicans held majorities in the House and Senate in 2017 and 2018.

On Thursday, Scott, a Trump ally who was elected in November, unveiled a nonbinding budget amendment that he said would protect health coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions (The Hill).

Trump’s ambitious call to reboot one of his campaign promises presents political peril if Republicans expect to be perceived next year, in his words, as “the party of health care” (The Hill).

“Hopefully we'll win at the appellate division and go to the Supreme Court to terminate ObamaCare,” Trump told reporters.

Meanwhile on Thursday, a federal judge struck down Trump’s initiative to permit small businesses and individuals to band together to create group health plans, noting it "is clearly an end-run around" the Affordable Care Act (Axios text and Bloomberg).

 

 

> On immigration, another politically potent issue, GOP lawmakers will soon be asked to craft legislation outlined by Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenActing DHS secretary says he expects Russia to attempt to interfere in 2020 elections House Homeland Security rip DHS's 'unacceptable' failure to comply with subpoena Trump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report MORE, secretary of Homeland Security, to address what the administration calls the “root causes of the emergency” at the southern border. NBC News reports the administration “will ask Congress for the authority to deport unaccompanied migrant children more quickly, to hold families seeking asylum in detention until their cases are decided and to allow immigrants to apply for asylum from their home countries.”

 

 

 

> The House on Thursday passed a resolution formally rejecting the Trump administration’s transgender military ban, which is to be implemented next month. Five Republicans joined every Democrat in a 238-185 vote spearheaded by Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyPeace Corps' sudden decision to leave China stirs blowback Kennedy outpaces Markey in Q4 fundraising Overnight Health Care — Presented by Philip Morris International — Dems warn Trump against Medicaid block grants | Sanders under pressure on how to pay for 'Medicare for All' | China to allow in US health officials to study coronavirus MORE III (D-Mass.), who serves as the chairman of the Equality Caucus’s Transgender Equality Task Force. The Republicans were: Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdTrump to attend California fundraiser with Oracle chairman The Hill's Morning Report - Nearing witness vote, GOP rushes to acquit Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Trump defense rests, GOP struggles to bar witnesses MORE (Texas), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoTech for Nevada caucuses under scrutiny after Iowa debacle Hillicon Valley: Judge approves T-Mobile, Sprint merger | FTC to review past Big Tech deals | State officials ask for more cybersecurity help | House nears draft bill on self-driving cars Bipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to combat cyberattacks on state and local governments MORE (N.Y.), Trey HollingsworthJoseph (Trey) Albert HollingsworthOvernight Defense: House passes bills to rein in Trump on Iran | Pentagon seeks Iraq's permission to deploy missile defenses | Roberts refuses to read Paul question on whistleblower during impeachment trial Here are the lawmakers who defected on Iran legislation House votes to rein in Trump's military authority MORE (Ind.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickDemocrats bullish on bill to create women's history museum: 'It's an election year' This week: Trump's budget lands with a thud on Capitol Hill House approves pro-union labor bill MORE (Pa.) and Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedThis week: Trump's budget lands with a thud on Capitol Hill Cuccinelli: New York reintroduced 'the main problem' that allowed 9/11 New Yorkers blocked from Global Entry program over immigrant license law MORE (N.Y.). Another Republican — Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashBarr ensnared in Roger Stone firestorm House passes bipartisan bill to create women's history museum Weld bets on New Hampshire to fuel long shot bid against Trump MORE (Mich.) — voted present. The administration will soon require members of the military to serve as the gender they were assigned at birth, effectively reversing policy changes implemented by the Obama administration in 2016 (The Hill).

 

> Lawmakers who vowed this week to block the president’s budget proposal to cut more than $17 million in funding for Special Olympics picked up a powerful ally on Thursday: Trump. The president told Congress that federal funds for the program would be restored, not cut, thus ending days of negative news coverage as Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosFree college won't revive the liberal arts Klobuchar rolls out seven-figure ad buy in Nevada Five things to watch in Trump's budget proposal MORE tried to defend the president’s budget proposal during congressional testimony. “I have overridden my people,” Trump said (The Associated Press).

 

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

Trump is having the best week ever, by Ned Ryun, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2HXlmeZ

Women’s economic empowerment is a national security issue, by Morgan Ortagus, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2YxWyjF

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 2:30 p.m. for a pro forma session.

The Senate convenes Monday at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2019.

The president will visit Lake Okeechobee in Florida and the Herbert Hoover Dike to call attention to federal support for infrastructure investments, pointing to dike repair as an example (The Hill). He’ll spend the weekend in Palm Beach.

Pence flies to Chicago to speak at the Turning Point USA Midwest Regional Conference at 6 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare Chicago. Pence returns to Washington tonight.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo promotes economic ties, takes aim at corruption in Africa visit Russian foreign minister says he sensed 'more constructive' approach after meeting with Pompeo Donald Trump: Unrepentant, on the attack and still playing the victim MORE hosts a conversation with Department of State employees at 9 a.m. He meets with United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba at 3 p.m. Pompeo meets with Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha at 4 p.m.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinGOP senators offering bill to cement business provision in Trump tax law On The Money: Deficit spikes 25 percent through January | Mnuchin declines to say why Trump pulled Treasury nominee who oversaw Roger Stone case | Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Mnuchin defends Treasury regulations on GOP tax law MORE tweeted from Beijing today that he and U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerGOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House MORE concluded “constructive” trade talks in China, to be continued in the United States. “I look forward to welcoming China’s Vice Premier Liu He to continue these important discussions in Washington next week,” he wrote on Twitter, referencing the next phase of discussions on April 3 (Reuters).

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ELSEWHERE

Brexit: The British government unveiled yet another option on Thursday in which ministers said they would carve Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal to withdraw from the European Union into two parts. The first would deal with the divorce agreement, which comes to a vote today. The second part is to be called the political declaration, to reckon with the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the EU. However, the withdrawal agreement contains elements that scuttled May’s plan in Parliament twice before, and her offer to resign if a Brexit plan goes through has not appeared to smooth a path toward consensus (The New York Times). The vote is to happen on the now-extended deadline by which Great Britain was originally due to exit the EU (Reuters).

Guns: The Supreme Court on Thursday turned aside a request from gun rights activists for a temporary stay to block the Trump administration’s ban on “bump stock” attachments that allow semi-automatic weapons to be fired rapidly, akin to machine guns. The administration’s ban went into effect on Tuesday (Reuters).

Medicaid: State-imposed work requirements for Medicaid in Kentucky and Arkansas will be emulated in other states with the administration’s support, despite a federal court ruling on Wednesday that blocked such changes and deterred Idaho’s legislature on Wednesday from approving certain work requirements for Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor (The Hill).  

Smoke-free: In a response aimed at public health and pressures from consumers, the Disney conglomerate on Thursday announced a ban on smoking at all its theme parks beginning May 1, restricting smoking to areas outside entrances to its popular tourist destinations. The company also changed its rules for strollers in the parks (The Miami Herald).

 

 

THE CLOSER

And finally … Bravo to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners! Our puzzle about baseball and the Nats’ Opening Day required some serious expertise and maybe some luck.

Here’s who aced it: Milt Mungo and Carol Katz.

The player with the most hits since the start of 2010 season is Robinson Canó.

Gio Gonzalez, now with the Yankees, pitched the most innings for the Washington Nationals after its 2005 debut.

Last season, Nationals outfielder Juan Soto hit 22 home runs in his age-19 season. Tony Conigliaro is the only player in MLB history with more home runs in his age-19 season.

Prior to his retirement last week, Ichiro Suzuki had the most hits of any player since he entered the league in 2001. Since the start of the ‘01 season, Albert Pujols has the most hits.