The Hill's Morning Report - Trump cleaning house on border security




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Another Cabinet secretary is out. This time it’s Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele Nielsen'Anonymous' whistleblower Miles Taylor changing locations, employing private security after death threats Biden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security Judge says acting DHS secretary appointment unlawful, invalidates DACA suspension MORE, who clashed with President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE during the entirety of her 16 months as head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and became the face of the administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” immigration policy.


Nielsen appeared to be on shaky ground for upward of a year after constant clashes with the president over border policy and what he considered to be lackluster work at controlling the inflow at the border (The Hill). Multiple outlets reported in May that Nielsen had drafted a resignation letter after Trump berated her during a Cabinet meeting for what he believed was her inability to control a surge of migration at the border. This year, she was rumored to be ready to exit in late January.


Sunday evening’s resignation came after Nielsen met with the president; multiple news outlets reported she had not expected to end the meeting with a resignation letter.


The secretary stepped down just two days after the president indicated his desire to go “in a tougher direction” when it comes to border and immigration policy and enforcement by suddenly withdrawing the nomination of Ronald Vitiello to become director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a move that reportedly blindsided Nielsen.


The personnel changes highlight multiple issues the administration faces related to immigration, agency staffing, policy churn and the administration’s defense of immigration policies in the courts.


The Washington Post: Potential nominees to succeed Nielsen include former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryChip Roy fends off challenge from Wendy Davis to win reelection in Texas The Memo: Texas could deliver political earthquake The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states MORE.


Nielsen’s exit came after a week in which the White House found itself consumed with border-related challenges, including Trump’s threat to seal the border. The administration is trying to navigate a relationship with Mexico through ratification of a hemispheric trade deal, to which Trump added yet another threat with the possibility next year of what he said would be 25 percent tariffs on Mexican cars coming into the United States.


Trump says he wants the Mexican government to better control its own border with Central American countries to stop caravans of migrants as they move toward the U.S. border.


Nielsen was with the president as he reinforced his reelection theme of border security on Friday during a visit to Calexico, Calif., to tour a renovated section of border wall.


The secretary’s departure thrust the White House, along with the Senate, back into the nominations business and added yet another “acting” department or agency head to an ever-widening list during the Trump presidency. Kevin McAleenan, U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner, is the newly-installed acting head of DHS. Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyMick Mulvaney 'concerned' by Giuliani role in Trump election case On The Money: Senate releases spending bills, setting up talks for December deal | McConnell pushing for 'highly targeted' COVID deal | CFPB vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency Consumer bureau vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency MORE is still the acting White House chief of staff and acting budget director. The Interior Department has an acting secretary, and acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanProgressive House Democrats urge Biden against Defense chief with contractor ties Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper House Armed Services chairman expresses confidence in Esper amid aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis MORE could see his chances for the permanent job torpedoed by a long spell of limbo status, combined with his Seattle-based coziness with the embattled Boeing Co.


Last week, Linda McMahonLinda Marie McMahonApril's dumbest and most dangerous coronavirus declarations Trump convenes sports commissioners in hopes of filling stadiums Senate confirms Trump pick for small business chief MORE announced her intention to leave her post this week atop the Small Business Administration and Trump named Jovita Carranza as his nominee to become administrator.


Senate Democrats, meanwhile, said they view Nielsen’s exit as an opening created by one far-right official who will eventually be replaced by another conservative Trump nominee.


“When even the most radical voices in the administration aren’t radical enough for President Trump, you know he’s completely lost touch with the American people,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms Trump supporters could hand Senate control to Democrats MORE (D-N.Y.) in a statement responding to the announcement.


In her resignation letter, which is effective on Wednesday, Nielsen talked up what she saw as the accomplishments of the department during her tenure. She served at DHS under former secretary and former White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE before taking over the department in December 2017.


The Washington Post: McAleenan is taking over DHS. Will he be ‘tough’ enough for Trump?

Politico: White House adviser Stephen Miller is the president’s immigration enforcer.


Today, House Democrats are expected to tour a Department of Health and Human Services detention facility for migrant children and families at the southern border that turned them away earlier this year, hoping to point to what they see as problems with Trump administration immigration policies (The Hill).


On Wednesday, Trump will make a reelection swing to Texas for some fundraising, where he’ll meet with donors and supporters in San Antonio and Houston, and speak to members of the International Union of Operating Engineers at a training center in Colby. With the oil and gas union workers, the president will announce executive orders aimed at speeding up pipeline and other energy products to expand oil and natural gas production (San Antonio Express-News).


Perspectives and Analysis:

The New York Times editorial board: Nielsen enforced cruelty at the border. Her replacement could be worse.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board: Thankless duty at Homeland Security.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Thompson (D): Nielsen’s tenure “a disaster from the start.”

The Washington Post: High-profile departures from the Trump administration continue.


CONGRESS: The fight over the potential release of Trump's tax returns spilled into the Sunday shows as Mulvaney vowed that Democratic investigators will “never” gain access to the individual and business returns they’re seeking from the IRS.


Mulvaney’s comments and defense of the president are the latest signs that the White House and the new House majority are heading toward some hand-to-hand combat over the meaning of legitimate congressional oversight, or what Trump derides as “presidential harassment.”


"Oh, no, never. Nor should they," Mulvaney told Fox News Sunday in response to a question about turning over the IRS filings. "The Democrats are demanding that the IRS turn over the documents. And that is not going to happen and they know it. This is a political stunt."


The fight kicked off in earnest last week after Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealA need for reauthorization of the Elder Justice Act Biden names Janet Yellen as his Treasury nominee Overnight Health Care: Trump announces two moves aimed at lowering drug prices | Sturgis rally blamed for COVID-19 spread in Minnesota | Stanford faculty condemn Scott Atlas MORE (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, sent the IRS a request for the last six years of the president’s returns, citing his ability to issue the request under a law saying that the Treasury secretary “shall furnish” the committee with “any return or return information” about a tax filer following a congressional request.


The Hill: Five things to watch in the tax return battles.


Reuters: Trump attorney says House Ways and Means request flouts “constitutional constraints” and is a “misguided attempt to politicize the administration of the tax laws.”


Tax Notes - Presidential candidate tax filings -- Trump’s 2005 return.





> One interesting political barometer to watch in Washington is the disposition toward Trump among Republicans relegated to the minority in the House compared with GOP senators in control of the upper chamber.


A core group of House Republicans remain the president’s staunch allies, especially as Democrats ramp up oversight investigations of Trump and his policies.


House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffBarr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn MORE (D-Calif.) continues to defend his view that Trump sought to obstruct a nearly two-year investigation by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerBarr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting MORE, while the ranking Republican on the committee, Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesBiden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls Overnight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Ex-Nunes aide linked to Biden conspiracy theories will lead Pentagon transition MORE (R-Calif.) remains intent on investigating the federal investigators who trained their sights on Trump.


Nunes, speaking on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” said he plans to send eight criminal referrals to Attorney General William BarrBill BarrList of Republicans breaking with Trump grows longer Trump blasts special counsel Durham for moving too slowly Trump rants against election results for 46 minutes in new video post MORE, five of which are for alleged crimes including lying to Congress, misleading Congress and disclosure of classified information. Nunes called the other three referrals “complicated,” addressing alleged conspiracy and alleged lying to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court and “manipulating intelligence.”


Nunes, who was chairman of the panel until the GOP lost the House, did not name the suspects in his referrals, but Trump maintains that an FBI investigation examining potential ties between his 2016 presidential campaign and Russia was originally launched under false and politically biased circumstances by Justice Department officials who wanted him to lose the election (The Hill).


In the Senate, Republicans are staking out their own terrain heading into 2020, eager to back Trump to confirm his conservative judicial nominees and fill high-profile vacancies in the administration, while remaining reluctant to cast votes that could come back to haunt GOP Senate candidates next year.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHillicon Valley: GOP chairman says defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal | Senate panel advances FCC nominee | Krebs says threats to election officials 'undermining democracy' On The Money: Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms | Pelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks | Poll: Most Americans support raising taxes on those making at least 0K Nearly one-third of US adults expect to lose employment income: Census Bureau MORE (R-Ky.) says at 100 days into the year, the Senate is in the “personnel business” more than the legislating business (The Associated Press).


Senate Republicans feel emboldened to push back against Trump on some key issues — and are seeing results. Alexander Bolton reports on two examples: rejecting the president’s call to craft a major health care bill before next year’s election and steering Trump away from complete U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria. Democrats’ success in last year’s midterm elections emboldened Republicans senators to say “no” to Trump’s ideas they believe could risk GOP control of the Senate in 2021 (The Hill).


Lawmakers in both parties have expressed unhappiness to the White House and Trump over the president’s efforts to secure a nuclear energy deal with Saudi Arabia (The Hill).


> House Democrats are wrestling with serious internal tensions that became evident in a fight over campaign fundraising and primary challenges, shifted into a battle over a budget blueprint and tumbled into the 2020 campaign (The New York Times).


> At the 100-day mark of the new Congress, House Democrats watch as their ambitious legislative agenda slows to a crawl. Only one measure that received a roll call vote has become law. The Senate remains, to no one’s surprise, a high legislative hurdle for the new House majority in combination with a Republican in the White House (The Hill).


> Former South Carolina Gov. and former Sen. Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings, a lifetime Democrat who left his mark on the Senate and his state, died over the weekend at age 97 (Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier).


Hollings, who left the Senate in 2005 and whose career spanned half a century, will lie in repose at the South Carolina Statehouse on April 15, and a funeral is planned for April 16 at The Citadel, his alma mater.


The roster of living former senators elected in the 1960s is shrinking (h/t to Louis M. Peck, contributing author with The Almanac of American Politics).


Fred R. Harris (elected 1964, now age 88)

Walter F. Mondale (appointed 1964, elected 1966, now age 91)

Robert J. (Bob) Dole (elected 1968, now age 95)

Robert W. Packwood (elected 1968, now age 86)

Maurice Robert (Mike) Gravel (elected 1968, now age 88).





POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: As Democrats look to earn support from all comers in the party, 2020 candidates have been intensely courting the support of Rep. John LewisJohn LewisKwanza Hall wins race to briefly succeed John Lewis in Congress Congress must act to protect and expand Social Security benefits Ossoff features Obama in TV ad ahead of Georgia runoff MORE (D-Ga.), whose endorsement has become one of the most coveted on the 2020 circuit as candidates try to separate themselves from their peers.  


As Jonathan Easley reports, Lewis is keeping his powder dry as he considers the ever-expanding primary field. The longtime Georgia Democrat and civil rights icon made a major splash in 2008 when he endorsed Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaGOP lawmaker blasts incoming freshman over allegations of presidential voter fraud Obama says he may take coronavirus vaccine on TV to build trust in it 'It's not a slogan': Progressives push back on Obama's comments on 'defund the police' movement MORE in February 2008 —-- only four months after endorsing Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton offers congratulations over Elliot Page announcement Biden brushes off criticism of budget nominee Mellman: Mired in Partisanship MORE’s campaign.





Among House Democrats, Lewis has been one of the most outspoken critics of Trump’s presidency since day one, headlined by his decision to skip Trump’s inauguration because he did not consider him to be a “legitimate president,” citing what he believed to be Russian work on behalf of Trump and to hurt Clinton in 2016.


> The Democratic field in 2020 is growing by the day, but Democrats say there's room for another potential candidate: Stacey Abrams.


As the 2020 field expands constantly, including bids by Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Now's the time to make 'Social Emotional Learning' a national priority Mourners gather outside Supreme Court after passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg MORE (D-Ohio) and a likely announcement this week by Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellJuan Williams: Defeated Trump is in legal peril Taylor Swift allows song to be used in campaign ad Graham says SC people of color can go anywhere in the state but 'need to be conservative, not liberal' MORE (D-Calif.), the drumbeat has grown louder for a 2020 bid by Abrams, which Democrats believe would be welcome and possible thanks to the dominance in numbers of white men in the race.


However, as Amie Parnes reports, one person hoping she doesn’t take the 2020 presidential plunge is Schumer, who is holding out hope that she will opt to run for Senate against Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.). Democrats believe that Senate seat could be a possible win for the party next year if Abrams gets in, especially given her near-win over Gov. Brian Kemp (R) last November.


Those close to Abrams say she is torn about her decision. But even as some think a Senate bid would be the right first step, she hears a chorus of voices telling her to make a bid for the presidency. This week, when she appeared at the National Action Network convention, she was met with chants of "Run, Stacey, run."


> As most of the 2020 Democratic field took to New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, Iowa Democrats were treated to what could be a sign of things to come as Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFormer Sanders press secretary: 'Principal concern' of Biden appointments should be policy DeVos knocks free college push as 'socialist takeover of higher education' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Capital One — Giuliani denies discussing preemptive pardon with Trump MORE (I-Vt.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) crisscrossed the state in search of support from likely caucus-goers.





The Associated Press: Sanders in a new position in 2020 race, that of front-runner.

The Associated Press: Sanders, O’Rourke face off in Iowa; other hopefuls in NH, NV.


“They became notable presidential candidates in Iowa after narrow losses that nonetheless put them on the national political stage. They’re competing for some of the same young voters. And this weekend, they’ve been driving around this first-in-the-nation caucus state reintroducing themselves to voters as others in the 2020 Democratic field dispersed to New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.  


It’s been Bernie versus Beto all weekend in Iowa, with both hopefuls reintroducing themselves as the man with a plan to deny President Donald Trump a second term. Sanders swept back into the state as the early front runner after raising $18 million in 41 days during the first quarter of the year, the most of any candidate. O’Rourke raised $9.4 million in 18 days.


In dueling rallies, town halls and house parties, they spoke most of improving health care and affording college tuition.”


Andrew Sullivan: Is Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegJuan Williams: Clyburn is my choice as politician of the year 'Biff is president': Michael J. Fox says Trump has played on 'every worst instinct in mankind' Buttigieg: Denying Biden intelligence briefings is about protecting Trump's 'ego' MORE a transformational candidate?


Elsewhere on the 2020 scene … Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerBiden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Policy center calls for new lawmakers to make diverse hires Dangerously fast slaughter speeds are putting animals, people at greater risk during COVID-19 crisis MORE (D-N.J.) announced Sunday that he raised $5 million during the first fundraising quarter, putting him well behind the likes of Sanders, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisMiddle East: Quick start for Biden diplomacy Hillicon Valley: GOP chairman says defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal | Senate panel advances FCC nominee | Krebs says threats to election officials 'undermining democracy' Top intelligence official says China targeting foreign influence at incoming Biden administration MORE (D-Calif.) and O’Rourke in the Democratic dash for cash (The New York Times) … ”Saturday Night Live” lampooned former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenLawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list GOP lawmaker blasts incoming freshman over allegations of presidential voter fraud Haaland has competition to be first Native American to lead Interior  MORE after allegations of inappropriate contact emerged over the last week and a half … Tommy Tuberville, the former football coach at Auburn University, announced his candidacy for the GOP nod to take on Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) in next year’s Senate race (Politico).

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!


Sen. Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy on the courts, by Juan Williams, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2OSWUNj


In praise of Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziRepublican Cynthia Lummis wins Wyoming Senate election Bottom line Chamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection MORE, by Judd Gregg, opinion contributor, The Hill.  https://bit.ly/2D0qOKS


The House meets at noon.


The Senate meets at 4 p.m.


The president participates in a credentialing ceremony for newly appointed ambassadors at 11:45 a.m. Trump and Vice President Pence have lunch at the White House at 12:30 p.m. The president meets with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS to temporarily withdraw some embassy personnel in Baghdad: report Pompeo to host indoor holiday parties at State Department despite warning to employees to hold some missions virtually The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Capital One — Pressure builds as UK approves COVID-19 vaccine MORE at 2:30 p.m.


Pence participates in a bilateral meeting at 4 p.m. with Hamilton Mourão, the vice president of Brazil.


Public health: Overuse of antibiotics worldwide created superbugs, infections that modern medicine struggles to eradicate. Candida auris is an insidious fungus that spreads easily and preys on people with compromised immune systems. Be afraid, warn doctors and clinicians who identify super germs such as this mysterious fungus as “urgent threats” (The New York Times).


Brexit: In a video message posted on Sunday, Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom said she could not see lawmakers accepting her proposed deal to leave the European Union "as things stand." She said she is searching for "new ways" to get a deal through Parliament, one she argues requires "compromise on both sides." With an April 12 deadline ahead, there is no clear path to fulfill the referendum approved three years ago. "I think people voted to leave the EU, we have a duty as a Parliament to deliver that," May said. Possible next steps: crash out of the EU; never leave, or secure another extension from the EU to keep talking (BBC).


RBG: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 85 and back at work on the court after recovering from surgery for lung cancer. But some conspiracy theorists dwelling in the recesses of the internet demand “proof of life” that Democrats have not engineered some maudlin trick to stop Trump from filling Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court. The Hill reports there’s little chance conspiracists will quit.  





And finally …  What does an actual black hole look like in a photograph from space? The National Science Foundation on Wednesday is expected to answer that question with help from the Event Horizon Telescope during a press event taking place simultaneously in six major cities around the world (Reuters).


As most of us know from science and science fiction and from artists’ renditions, black holes are described as dense accumulations of matter of such incredible mass and minimal volume that they warp space and time. Pass too close to a black hole — whether star or photon of light — and be consumed. Millions of black holes are out there.


Info HERE about glimpsing history live at 9 a.m. ET on April 9.