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.
*** ⚾ The Nats lost to the Phillies last night, 8-2: Fans booed Bryce Harper a lot, but it didn’t matter as he went 3-5, including a mammoth home run, a double and three RBI’s for the undefeated Phillies. Fans, including plenty of politicians and VIPs, braved some rain and chilly April weather to enjoy the game. ***
President TrumpDonald TrumpJury in Jussie Smollett trial begins deliberations Pence says he'll 'evaluate' any requests from Jan. 6 panel Biden's drug overdose strategy pushes treatment for some, prison for others MORE attracted criticism from members of his party and the business community following his threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border this week.
Seal the border and economic ruin is a certainty, Trump’s own senior advisers, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money — McConnell searches for debt deal votes GOP working to lock down votes on McConnell debt deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Debt limit maneuvers; Biden warns Putin MORE (R-Ky.), major manufacturers and representatives from the U.S. auto industry warned the administration again on Tuesday.
“Closing down the border would have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country, and I would hope we would not be doing that kind of thing,” McConnell told reporters.
The president said he had not decided whether to move ahead, appearing to waver between a threat he sees as leverage and his impatience with a surge of migrants at the southern border that he believes warrants drastic intervention.
“I'm ready to close it if I have to close it,” Trump told reporters. “Mexico is now stopping people coming in ... Let's see if they keep doing that. If they don't or if we don't make a deal with Congress, the border's going to be closed. One hundred percent."
The president conceded the economic costs but argued that border security takes precedence over trade and commerce.
“Security is more important to me than trade. So, we're going to have a strong border or we're going to have a closed border,” he repeated.
This was not what the U.S. business community wanted to hear. The Center for Automotive Research told The Washington Post that sealing the border could halt all U.S. automotive manufacturing within a week, impacting at least 1 million jobs.
The Washington Post: White House seeks to minimize economic impacts from Trump’s threatened closure of Mexico border.
Politico: Advisers, business community warn Trump of economic hit if border closed.
The Associated Press: Trump takes a step back from vow to close the southern border.
"Let's regard shutting down the border as a notion. That can't possibly rise to the level of an idea, right?” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse passes bills to pressure China amid Olympic boycott House passes bill to strengthen shipping supply chain Overnight Defense & National Security — Biden: US troops to Ukraine 'not on the table' MORE (D-Calif.) said when asked about Trump’s threat. “Let's hope that there's some level of maturity at the White House that says, 'Cute, but –..."
Trump, who has turned his attention back to border security as his reelection messaging ramps up, also is being pressured in Congress to abandon his decision to cut off aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Trump says the governments in those countries help people trek through Mexico to seek asylum in the United States.
Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioManchin quietly discusses Senate rules changes with Republicans Rubio calls on Airbnb to delist some properties in China's Xinjiang region Democrats seek to avoid internal disputes over Russia and China MORE (R-Fla.) tweeted that reducing U.S. support to Central America and closing the border with Mexico would be "counterproductive."
Two top House Republicans on the Foreign Affairs and Appropriations committees also panned the State Department’s pullback in aid. The complaints from within Republican ranks are a sign that appropriators in Congress will likely try to block Trump from curtailing the assistance (The Hill).
Trump has complained that Central American countries are “taking advantage of the United States.”
“They don’t do anything for us,” the president said. “They arrange these caravans, and they don’t put their best people in those caravans … We’re not going to have it anymore.”
Advocacy organizations such as the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) argue that U.S. assistance to Central America’s Northern Triangle countries helps tackle crime and economic conditions that encourage populations to flee to the United States.
“U.S. support has not only worked, but also delivered a return on our investment for the American taxpayer. Homicide rates declined by 42% in El Salvador, 13% in Guatemala and 23% in Honduras from 2015 to 2017. By 2017, American assistance helped improve security and economic conditions throughout the region, and border-crossing apprehensions had fallen to their lowest point since 1971,” the USGLC reports.
Nevertheless, White House admonitions to those countries and Mexico have been obvious since last year.
LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS: A pair of Senate Democrats hope to do their part to pull their party away from the continuous fervor over “Medicare for all” so they rolled out a proposed public option as the party continues to push health care as its primary political issue.
As Alexander Bolton reported, Democratic Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineManchin quietly discusses Senate rules changes with Republicans Liberty University professor charged with alleged sexual battery and abduction of student Senate parliamentarian looms over White House spending bill MORE (Va.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocrats see Christmas goal slipping away Hickenlooper: Law preventing cannabis business banking 'a recipe for disaster' Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE (Colo.), a presidential hopeful in his own right, unveiled legislation for “Medicare X” on Tuesday, showing the disconnect between 2020 Democrats — outside of Bennet and Klobuchar (D-Minn.) — and rank-and-file senators.
Republicans, meanwhile, are still confused about where Trump is going on healthcare and trying to shift the focus to more modest proposals to contain costs such as legislation promoting more affordable drugs and association health plans, which McConnell pointed to Tuesday afternoon.
The Associated Press: Trump defers push for health care plan following GOP resistance.
> The never-ending campaign has carried into 2019 for Democrats as they approach their 100th day in power after their successful 2018 election, according to Juliegrace Brufke and Scott Wong.
House Democrats are almost solely focused on capturing the next big prizes: control of the Senate and the White House in 2020. Messaging tools have taken the place of bipartisan deal-making, at least for now, as bills aimed to stop corruption, curb gun violence, foster pay equality and shore up ObamaCare have been the priorities of the party.
The package of bills fulfills campaign promises that Democrats made last year, but it also represents a preview of what Democrats say they can accomplish if voters hand them control of the White House and Senate next fall.
Elsewhere in congressional news … The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote today to subpoena 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 full, unredacted report and underlying evidence from his investigation (Reuters) … Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerCawthorn 'likely' violated rules by bringing candidate on House floor Perilous Pennsylvania, Trump's non-strategy takes another hit Trump moves to boost Ted Budd in North Carolina Senate race MORE (R-N.C.), the No. 4 member in the House GOP, was ensnared in a federal corruption probe, which led to an indictment of the state GOP chairman on public corruption and bribery charges (The Hill) … Rep. TJ Cox (Calif.), one of the most vulnerable House Democrats, failed to disclose several business interests, including a foreign tie, during his 2018 candidacy (The Fresno Bee) … Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is slated to address the House Democratic issues conference next week (The Washington Post). Trump blasted Powell in at least three meetings with GOP lawmakers in the past week (The Wall Street Journal).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: With the Democratic field currently sitting at roughly 15 declared candidates — and more waiting in the wings to announce potential bids — Democrats are making early appeals to various factions of the Democratic primary voters exactly 10 months until the Iowa caucuses.
Among those efforts will be a push for African-American support, and nowhere is that more evident than the looming Democratic cattle call as a cadre of high-profile candidates make their appeals before the National Action Network and the Rev. Al Sharpton in New York.
As Niall Stanage writes, Sharpton’s group is drawing most of the top-line Democratic candidates to New York for a three-day conference beginning Wednesday.
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBriahna Joy Gray discusses US's handling of COVID-19 testing Senate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense & National Security — Lawmakers clinch deal on defense bill MORE (I-Vt.), Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTop Dem vows party won't let expanded child tax credit expire at month's end Hugh Hewitt pleads with Trump to not endorse Greitens in Missouri Jussie Smollett's final act: How a hate crime hoax became a pitch for jury nullification MORE (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley — Presented by Connected Commerce Council — Incident reporting language left out of package Exporting gas means higher monthly energy bills for American families Senators turn up the heat on Amazon, data brokers during hearing MORE (D-Mass.), former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeO'Rourke seizes on Texas power grid in bid against Abbott McConaughey on Texas run: 'I will let you know shortly' O'Rourke raises M in first 24 hours of Texas governor campaign MORE (D-Texas), Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerMaternal and child health legislation must be prioritized now Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (D-N.J.), Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense & National Security — Biden: US troops to Ukraine 'not on the table' Gillibrand slams committee leadership, Pentagon for military justice reform cuts Lawmakers reach compromise on annual defense policy bill MORE (D-N.Y.) and Klobuchar will all speak. The turnout underlines yet again the importance of black voters in the Democratic primary — as well as Sharpton's increasingly mainstream image.
Along with the 2020 heavyweights, declared and prospective candidates of all types will make their case before the group, including former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden's proposals spark phase 2 of supply chain crisis Biden returns restores tradition, returning to Kennedy Center Honors The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown MORE, former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperHickenlooper: Law preventing cannabis business banking 'a recipe for disaster' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to tackle omicron risks with new travel rules Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Shipwreck sends waste thousands of miles MORE, Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellHomicide Victims' Families' Rights Act will renew our commitment to support crime victims GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to update Americans on omicron; Congress back MORE (D-Calif.), former Rep John DelaneyJohn DelaneyMaryland Democrats target lone Republican in redistricting scheme Warning: Joe Biden's 'eat the rich' pitch may come back to bite you Direct air capture is a crucial bipartisan climate policy MORE (D-Md.) and entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangAmerican elections are getting less predictable; there's a reason for that Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run At 28 percent approval, say goodbye to Kamala Harris being Plan B to an aging Biden MORE.
Those not expected include Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeVaccine mandates put unions in a bind Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Armadillo army takes over North Carolina town Washington redistricting commission fails, punts maps to Supreme Court MORE and Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardThe perfect Democratic running mate for DeSantis? Progressives breathe sigh of relief after Afghan withdrawal Hillicon Valley: US has made progress on cyber but more needed, report says | Democrat urges changes for 'problematic' crypto language in infrastructure bill | Facebook may be forced to unwind Giphy acquisition MORE (D-Hawaii).
National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar: Recent poll showed black voters overwhelmingly support former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPharma lobby eyes parliamentarian Demand for US workers reaches historic high Biden to award Medal of Honor to three soldiers who fought in Iraq, Afghanistan: report MORE’s expected candidacy.
“If I could get the answer to any question about the 2020 presidential primary, it would be this: Will African-American voters throw their support behind Vice President Joe Biden because they view him as an extension of the Obama era? Or will they vote for candidates who look more like them and are running on issues of specific interest to the African-American community?” Kraushaar wrote.
> Problems continued to mount for Biden Tuesday as two more women alleged he inappropriately touched them. Caitlyn Caruso, 22, alleged that the former vice president rested his hand on her thigh at an event on sexual assault when she was 19. The second woman, D.J. Hill, 59, claimed that Biden moved his hand down her back during a photo line in 2012, saying it made her “very uncomfortable” and that only Biden “knows his intent.
A Biden spokesman referred The Hill to a comment Sunday saying that he “offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort."
"And not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately," Biden added. "If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully."
Earlier, Trump jabbed at the former vice president during a House GOP fundraising dinner, suggesting that Sanders and his supporters are likely the culprits behind the stories.
"The socialists are really taking care of him," Trump said. "Our former vice president...I was going to say welcome to the world, Joe. You having a good time, Joe?"
Earlier Tuesday, Biden tried to play clean-up Tuesday from the initial two allegations as his team sent out kind words on his behalf from “Women Who Know Joe Biden.”
As Amie Parnes and Jonathan Easley report, the controversy over Biden’s behavior toward women has split Democrats along generational and political lines and is testing the party’s zero tolerance policy on sexual misconduct in the “#MeToo” era. Some liberal Democrats view Biden’s shoulder grabs and kisses as disqualifying, arguing that the party can’t waver in its commitment to protecting women if it’s going to maintain the moral high ground.
Traditional mainstream Democrats with deep ties to the former vice president leaped to his defense, arguing that his behavior was innocent. They say the attacks against Biden are an example of the “#MeToo” movement going too far and creating an atmosphere of panic around interactions between men and women.
> As Reid Wilson reports, liberals are furious with a new Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) policy intended to protect incumbents. Veterans of the DCCC and other Dem strategists say it’s an unwritten rule that finally got written down — potentially boxing out challengers at the cost of angering the liberal grassroots, which funds the committee and its candidates.
> The New York Times’s David Brooks: Why you love Mayor Pete.
> CBS News: Pete’s path. The mayor plans to launch his official bid this month.
In other political news … Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor who has never held elective office, will succeed Rahm Emanuel, becoming the city’s first black woman and openly gay person to serve as mayor after ballots were counted on Tuesday (The Hill) ... The Democratic National Committee scheduled the second primary debate on July 30 and July 31 in Detroit. CNN will host the debate (The Hill) … Sanders raked in $18.2 million during the first fundraising quarter, according to his campaign (The Hill) … CNN scheduled five more town halls with 2020 Democratic candidates for next week, including with Gillibrand, Castro and Inslee (CNN).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
We need a public-private collaboration to prevent a cyber Pearl Harbor, by Leon Panetta and James Talent, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2UpWC5F
Trump fails his duty by backtracking on health care, by Quin Hillyer, The Washington Examiner. https://washex.am/2Ufstab
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 9 a.m. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a joint session of Congress to mark the 70th anniversary of the alliance.
The Senate convenes at 12:30 p.m. and resumes consideration of Jeffrey Kessler to be an assistant secretary of Commerce.
The president meets with senior military leaders for a briefing followed by a White House dinner.
Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinSuspect in Khashoggi murder arrested The 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 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 meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He for trade discussions in Washington.
White House National Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow speaks with a roundtable of reporters at 9 a.m. at the invitation of The Christian Science Monitor.
➔ Brexit: Ask for a delay or crash out of the European Union? Prime Minister Theresa May is aiming for another delay. May said she would ask the EU for more time beyond April 12 to sit down with Great Britain’s opposition Labour Party in a bid to break the impasse over Britain’s withdrawal, called for in a referendum three years ago (Reuters).
➔ Tech: Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark ZuckerbergSenators to grill Instagram chief over platform's effect on children Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for 0B Hillicon Valley — Amazon draws COVID scrutiny MORE raised eyebrows over the weekend with a call for regulating internet giants, but regulators, lawmakers and activists around the world who say they’re wary of Facebook see Zuckerberg's advocacy as his counter to more drastic proposals, including calls to break up Silicon Valley's giants (The Hill).
➔ Fourth Estate: The White House Correspondents’ Association announced annual journalism awards to be handed out on April 27 at its spring dinner saluting the First Amendment. Winners are: McKay Coppins of The Atlantic, who takes home the Aldo Beckman Award for reporting about the White House; Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post, to receive the Merriman Smith Award for his print article “Trump derides protections for immigrants from shithole countries”; Ed Henry of Fox News, recipient of the Merriman Smith Award for broadcast, for his interview with former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittUnderstanding the barriers between scientists, the public and the truth Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Trump-era EPA board member sues over firing MORE; and Edgar A. Poe Award honorees Joshua Schneyer, Michael Pell, Andrea Januta and Deborah Nelson of Reuters for their investigation of military housing titled “Ambushed at Home.”
➔ Art of commuting: Short-story vending machines have been installed in London for commuters, dispensing recognized authors’ one- to five-minute stories at the touch of a button (The Guardian). (Yep, urban dwellers increasingly have the attention span of gnats …)
And finally … Is it a sign? Some 200 bald eagles and other opportunistic birds are strafing Seattle suburban neighborhoods with trash and scraps scavenged from a problem landfill. The majesty of the eagles and the ick response to the garbage pose a dilemma for county officials and residents.
One community solution? Harassment, reports The New York Times.
“Drones and scarecrows have been used to frighten the birds. But in Washington State, the eagles also attack the drones. Falconers might be helpful against gulls, but not bald eagles. Netting is used sometimes, but that’s better for small, discrete areas.”