The Hill's Morning Report — Trump buys more time on Mexico and China

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MORE on Thursday extended his own timelines for a crackdown on the U.S. border with Mexico and completion of a trade deal with China, underscoring the volatility of his rhetoric and ambition when it comes to international relations.

The president retreated from recent threats to close the United States’ southern border, telling reporters he will grant the Mexican government another year to block migrant caravans and drug trafficking before deciding whether to levy a different punishment, which he described as 25 percent tariffs on Mexican cars coming into the United States (The Hill).

“The only thing, frankly, better and less drastic than closing the border is tariff the cars coming in, and I will do it,” Mr. Trump said. “I don’t play games.”

The New York Times: Trump gives Mexico a one-year warning.

The president said he believed Mexico, fearing he would follow through and close U.S. border entry, heeded his warnings in the last week and deported or expelled migrants from Central American countries moving across its own southern border.

“Mexico took a big chunk of our car business, which I don’t like,” the president added. “I don’t think we’ll ever have to close the border [because] tariffs would be massive.”

Analysts said auto tariffs with Mexico pose two challenges for U.S. policy, if Trump follows through early in 2020. First, tariffs would result in higher costs for U.S. consumers and for U.S. and European automakers. And second, 25 percent tariffs would likely breach the terms of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, which Trump embraces as a replacement for the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. The USMCA, as he calls it, already faces headwinds in Congress where ratification is the next step.

On trade with China, Trump said completion of a “comprehensive” deal with Beijing requires at least another month to six weeks of negotiations and that no summit meeting with President Xi Jinping of China will happen until a deal is reached. Previously, Trump indicated he wanted to close the deal with Xi himself, possibly at Mar-a-Lago this month or next.

Because China’s top trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, met with senior U.S. officials and the president on Thursday at the White House, expectations rose that Trump would announce a summit date with Xi as a signal that major progress was achieved after months of back-and-forth negotiations (The Los Angeles Times).

“This is an epic deal, historic, if it happens,” the president told reporters. “Some of the toughest things have been agreed to,” he said, but confirmed that enforcement provisions remain a sticking point with China. “We have some ways to go.”

By extending border brinksmanship with Mexico into 2020 and emphasizing a tough stance with China over trade and intellectual property this year, Trump continues to inject border and trade themes into his reelection messaging even in the absence of tangible results.

Indeed, he flies to Calexico, Calif., today to inspect a partially renovated section of border wall.

There is one complication, however, in publicly decrying a surge of migrants, asylum seekers and illegal drugs across the southern border against the backdrop of a national emergency declaration, while also granting Mexico a grace period of a year before taking other dramatic steps.

Trump’s emergency decision to carve out military appropriations to build a border wall has been challenged in court, and opponents dispute the legal underpinnings of the president’s end-run around Congress. Deciding against steps such as closing the border or levying tariffs for a year could be used by Trump’s opponents as evidence that a current national security emergency is merely a political prop.

On Thursday, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRepublicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump's impeachment Trump chooses high-profile but controversial legal team Trump: Impeachment timing intended to hurt Sanders MORE (D-Calif.) announced the House would file suit to challenge Trump’s determination, which he made under provisions of the National Emergencies Act. 

"The president's action clearly violates the Appropriations Clause by stealing from appropriated funds, an action that was not authorized by constitutional or statutory authority," the Speaker said in a statement that Republicans likewise pointed to as political stagecraft.



CONGRESS: With House Democrats ratcheting up the pressure on Trump to release years of tax returns, the focus is turning to one Cabinet member who will have some say: Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinSecurity for Trump's Mar-a-Lago visits cost local taxpayers million On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Senate approves Trump trade deal with Canada, Mexico | Senate Dems launch probe into Trump tax law regulations | Trump announces Fed nominees Senate Democrats launch investigation into Trump tax law regulations MORE.


As Naomi Jagoda and Sylvan Lane report, Mnuchin, who has been one of the president’s most loyal Cabinet allies for more than two years, could play a key role in protecting the president from Democrats’ long-promised pursuit of the returns, which Trump declined to release during his 2016 campaign. In recent days, the president has used the same line of defense: The returns are under audit and he is still not “inclined” to release them.




Not only has Mnuchin defended the president in most policy disputes, but also over his personal conduct when others wouldn’t go that far. Now, he is faced with a big test after the tax return request from House Democrats, as he will have to balance his loyalty to the president against a legislative request pegged to a statute that provides little wiggle room.


Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealTreasury watchdog to investigate Trump opportunity zone program House poised to hand impeachment articles to Senate House to vote Wednesday on sending articles of impeachment to Senate MORE (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, requested six years of returns through an avenue granted only to tax-writing committees in Congress that allows them to request tax information about any filer. He gave the IRS until April 10 to comply with the request.


Trump is almost certain to challenge the committee, and Republicans by and large have his back, with Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyTrump economic aide says new tax proposal could be unveiled this summer Hoyer: Democratic chairmen trying to bridge divide on surprise medical bills On The Money: House approves Trump USMCA deal in bipartisan vote | Senate sends .4T spending bill to Trump's desk | Why budget watchdogs are howling over the spending deal MORE (R-Texas), the top GOP tax-writer in the House, calling it a Democratic attempt to embarrass a political foe.


> According to reporting by Morgan Chalfant, Olivia Beavers and Mike Lillis, House Democrats have sensed an opening late this week after reading a pair of articles in which some on special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE’s team are said to be frustrated with the Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrDems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Pentagon to place new restrictions, monitoring on foreign military students Parnas: Environment around Trump 'like a cult' MORE’s summary of the investigation’s findings. After The New York Times and The Washington Post reported anonymously sourced criticisms, Democrats sharpened their calls for the release of the full report, which is not expected from Barr until mid-April at the earliest.


> On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Democrats are pushing back against demands from influential progressives that they respond in kind against Senate Republicans after they invoked the “nuclear option” to approve hundreds of Trump nominees with the help of reduced requirements for debate.


As Jordain Carney reports, Democrats are brushing off progressive demands that they play hardball after Republicans invoked the "nuclear option" for a second time in as many years. Democrats are under pressure to hit back at Republicans, including calls for them not to return their “blue slips” on lower-court district nominees. But senators warn the tactics would backfire because it would result in blocking judges that Democrats would otherwise support.


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSanders to headline Iowa event amid impeachment trial Hillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Hill.TV's Krystal Ball on Sanders-Warren feud: 'Don't play to the pundits, play to voters' MORE has encouraged many former colleagues and high-profile Democrats to come to his aid in recent days as he became embroiled in a nearly week-long slog of allegations and complaints from women describing inappropriate or uncomfortable physical contact he initiated, often in public. However, one prominent Democrat remained silent: Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Climate 'religion' is fueling Australia's wildfires Biden's new campaign ad features Obama speech praising him MORE.


As Amie Parnes and Max Greenwood report, people close to the former president believe he stands behind Biden amid the allegations from four women. Despite the private support for his longtime friend, Obama has not commented publicly.



Obama is not expected to endorse any candidate in the 2020 contest until the primary is over. Biden is not officially in the race but is expected to announce his candidacy this month. According to The New York Times, the former vice president’s allies are hoping Obama will “speak favorably” about Biden’s service and experience.


In the meantime, Obama has met with and counseled a number of candidates in the nascent 2020 race, including Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial Overnight Energy: Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate impact | Republicans offer details on their environmental proposals | Microsoft aims to be carbon negative by 2030 MORE (D-Calif.), Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDNC announces new criteria for New Hampshire debate The Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders, Warren feud rattles Democrats The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE (D-N.J.), Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders to headline Iowa event amid impeachment trial Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti rips Sanders over handling of feud with Warren On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Sanders defends vote against USMCA | China sees weakest growth in 29 years | Warren praises IRS move on student loans MORE (D-Mass.), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSanders to headline Iowa event amid impeachment trial Hill.TV's Krystal Ball on Sanders-Warren feud: 'Don't play to the pundits, play to voters' Poll: Sanders holds 5-point lead over Buttigieg in New Hampshire MORE (D).


Biden will speak this morning in Washington to a construction and maintenance conference of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.


Associated Press: Biden to make 1st appearance since complaints about behavior


“Biden allies insist the eruption has done little to slow down planning for a 2020 campaign. Barring the unforeseen, he is expected to announce his candidacy, perhaps online, after Easter and immediately embark on a trip to early voting caucus and primary states. Those stops would be followed by a ceremonial kickoff.  Advisers say they are working to build out a robust campaign staff, including operatives in Iowa and South Carolina, states that are seen as key to his path to the nomination. Women are being considered for key roles, including senior strategist and deputy campaign manager, according to advisers, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the planning publicly.”


Jennifer Palmieri, TIME: I worked with Joe Biden. Here’s what you need to know about the frontrunner myth.


Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal : If Biden runs, they’ll tear him up


> The 2020 Democratic field is expected to grow again next week as Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Enes Kanter sees political stardom — after NBA and WWE Swalwell pens op-ed comparing Trump impeachment to XYZ Affair MORE (D-Calif.), a fourth-term congressman, is expected to announce his intentions on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. According to The Atlantic, Swalwell is not expected to center his candidacy around his work on the House Intelligence Committee and the findings or fallout from the various Russia probes, but rather on gun control. He plans a town hall gathering in Coral Springs, Fla., next week.




On Thursday, Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanOffice of Technology Assessment: It's time for a second coming Key moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far GM among partners planning .3B battery plant in Ohio MORE (D-Ohio) announced his 2020 candidacy, which he will launch this week with trips to Ohio and New Hampshire.


> Deputies of the president are encouraging Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzGaetz in Twitter battle with Florida House Republican Apple under pressure to unlock Pensacola shooter's phones Conservatives slam Warren's call to put transgender women in women's prisons MORE (R-Fla.), who represents a large part of the Florida Panhandle, to pick up and move north to Alabama to take on Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) next year in what is considered a top GOP pick-up opportunity.


As reported by Scott Wong, Gaetz, one of the president’s top loyalists and preeminent defenders on Capitol Hill, has considered the move as recently as Thursday.  Republicans roundly believe this is their best chance at picking off an incumbent Democrat, especially with Trump on top of the ticket in the deep-red state. Buoying Gaetz, 36, are campaign laws in the state, including a one-day residency requirement.


The top Republican in the race currently is Rep. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneGOP lawmaker offers resolution to censure Pelosi for holding articles of impeachment GOP rep releases campaign ad ripping Kaepernick, 'The Squad' GOP rep rails against Democrats for rejecting Republican impeachment amendment MORE (R-Ala.), a third-term lawmaker who raised $1.2 million in the first quarter. He has $2 million in cash on hand.


One Alabama Republican dismissed a possible Gaetz run across the state line, along with his chances. They noted that he has no connection to Alabama and has just $150,000 in his campaign coffers.


“I was debating a ‘who?’ or just sending the mugshot,” the Alabama Republican said of Gaetz, pointing to his 2008 DUI arrest, although he wasn’t charged. “There’s one person in Alabama that could lose to Doug Jones — Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreThe 5 most vulnerable senators in 2020 The biggest political upsets of the decade GOP predicts bipartisan acquittal at Trump impeachment trial MORE. There’s a lot of people in Florida that could lose to him though, including Matt Gaetz.”


In other political news … Biden was spotted with a film crew in Scranton, Pa., outside his childhood home (WNEP) … New Hampshire is expected to take center stage this weekend with number of candidates slated to appear, including Booker, Buttigieg, Swalwell, Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial Overnight Energy: Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate impact | Republicans offer details on their environmental proposals | Microsoft aims to be carbon negative by 2030 MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSanders to headline Iowa event amid impeachment trial On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Sanders defends vote against USMCA | China sees weakest growth in 29 years | Warren praises IRS move on student loans Klobuchar on missing campaigning for impeachment: 'I can do two things at once' MORE (D-Colo.) (Paul Steinhauser).

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America’s universities are finally waking up to the China threat, by Josh Rogin, The Washington Post.

Sure, let’s make the Senate less deliberative, by The New York Times editorial board.



The House meets at noon on April 8. 

The Senate meets at 4 p.m. on April 8.

The president flies to Calexico, Calif., to tour a section of border wall and talk to law enforcement and homeland security officials. He then travels to Los Angeles and headlines a roundtable and joint fundraising dinner hosted in Beverly Hills by health care executive Lee Samson (CBS News and TMZ). Trump then flies to Las Vegas, where he remains overnight and then speaks on Saturday at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting, joined by the vice president.

Vice President Pence flies from Indianapolis to Houston this morning with second lady Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Senate receives impeachment articles as trial opens The Hill's Morning Report - Dems to lay out impeachment case to senators next week The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump says Iran 'standing down' after missile strike MORE to visit a Homeland Security Investigations facility and to be briefed on conditions at the U.S. southern border. Later, Pence speaks at Rice University’s Baker Institute of Public Policy to discuss conditions in Venezuela and to reinforce U.S. opposition to the government of Nicolas Maduro. From there, the vice president will travel to College Station, Texas, to participate in a program honoring the late President George H.W. Bush at the presidential library he founded. The Pences will spend the night in Las Vegas.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its employment report for March at 8:30 a.m., which analysts expect will clarify that February’s lower-than-expected jobs data was a fluke (Reuters).Jobless claims data released on Thursday were at a half-century low, which cheered markets and analysts. But a private-sector report said job layoffs spiked to the highest level seen at the start of a year in at least a decade (CNBC).


Boeing: “Erroneous” data contributed to a pair of Boeing 737 Max 8 plane crashes that resulted in the deaths of 346 people, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg conceded on Thursday in a video. “It’s apparent that in both flights the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, known as MCAS, activated in response to erroneous angle of attack information,” he said, acknowledging that it was the company's responsibility to resolve issues with the system (The Hill). The crashes have left the world’s largest planemaker in crisis (Reuters).

Federal Reserve: President Trump on Thursday said Herman Cain, a former pizza executive and 2012 Republican presidential candidate known at that time for his “nine-nine-nine” tax plan, is in “good shape” for nomination to a Fed board seat (The Hill). In selecting Cain, Trump seeks to shake up the Fed (The Wall Street Journal). He recently tapped another unconventional Fed pick, economist and frequent cable television pundit Stephen Moore, whose personal financial clashes with the IRS and his ex-wife attracted recent headlines (CNBC). The Senate must confirm the nominees.  

Catholic Church: To address upheaval caused by clerical sexual abuse scandals, Pope Francis named Atlanta’s Archbishop Wilton Gregory as archbishop of Washington, D.C. Gregory, 71, the only living archbishop who is black, succeeds Cardinal Donald Wuerl, 78, who resigned in October but stayed on for a transition period (The Washington Post).

In the Know: Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker joined lawmakers on Thursday to announce a new initiative to help rebuild communities ravaged by conflict in Africa. The Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative, which he founded, is partnering with the United States African Development Foundation to provide grants and support services to 40 small businesses run mostly by women and young people in South Sudan and Uganda. “The thing is, if we want lasting peace our efforts must go beyond the surfaces of security and violence," Whitaker said, "by bringing communities to speak out on their own." (The Hill).



And finally … Kudos to winners of this week’s Morning Report quiz. The puzzle this week was inspired by the 40th anniversary of the movie “Alien,” and these moviegoers aced the questions: Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRepublicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump's impeachment The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump beefs up impeachment defense with Dershowitz, Starr The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE (not Maine’s senator!), Grant Froelich, Joel Punausuia, Milt Mungo, Luther Berg, Rick Mito, Ian Jackson, Patrick S. Randall and Kane Martin.

They knew that Ridley Scott directed 1979’s “Alien,” which, by the way, he originally envisioned as a kind of space-based “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

The writers named the “Alien” spaceship Nostromo.

The extraterrestrial in “Alien” had acid for blood, a plot invention to help explain why the Nostromo crew did not shoot the creature in some camera shots. 

“Alien” took place in 2122. (FYI, this was tricky for readers, many of whom thought the correct answer might be “unspecified future.”)

The memorably gory scene in which an astronaut’s chest explodes as an alien hatches from its host was inspired by the life cycles of certain wasps.