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




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

***   Virginia vs. Texas Tech in tonight’s NCAA championship at 9:20 p.m. on CBS — the first title game for both teams! ***

Another Cabinet secretary is out. This time it’s Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenEx-Trump official: 'No. 1 national security threat I've ever seen' is GOP Left-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' MORE, who clashed with President TrumpDonald TrumpMyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections Simone Biles, Vince Lombardi and the courage to walk away 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 PerryCollege football move rocks Texas legislature Trump tries to spin failed Texas endorsement: 'This was a win' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Officers recount the horror of Jan. 6 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 MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' 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 ShanahanSenators introducing bill to penalize Pentagon for failed audits Overnight Defense: National Guard boosts DC presence ahead of inauguration | Lawmakers demand probes into troops' role in Capitol riot | Financial disclosures released for Biden Pentagon nominee Biden Pentagon pick could make up to .7M from leaving Raytheon 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 McMahonTomorrow's special election in Texas is the Democrats' best House hope in 2021 April's dumbest and most dangerous coronavirus declarations Trump convenes sports commissioners in hopes of filling stadiums 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 SchumerAn August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy 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 NealDemocrats release data showing increase in 'mega-IRA' accounts Treasury starts monthly child tax credit payments Progressives ramp up Medicare expansion push in Congress 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 SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work MORE (D-Calif.) continues to defend his view that Trump sought to obstruct a nearly two-year investigation by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate 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 Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE, while the ranking Republican on the committee, Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesSunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe Lawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection Tucker Carlson claims NSA leaked private emails to journalists 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 BarrTrump called acting attorney general almost daily to push election voter fraud claim: report Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote Native Americans are targets of voter suppression too 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 McConnellAn August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done After police rip Trump for Jan. 6, McCarthy again blames Pelosi The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands 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 LewisConstitutional rights are the exception Clintons, Stacey Abrams meeting Texas Democrats Virginia Democrats seek to tie Youngkin to Trump's election claims 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 ObamaMillennial momentum means trouble for the GOP Biden's Cuba problem: Obama made a bet and lost Democrats need a coherent response to attacks on critical race theory MORE in February 2008 —-- only four months after endorsing Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClintons, Stacey Abrams meeting Texas Democrats Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote 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 passes spending bill to boost Capitol Police and Hill staffer pay Tim Ryan slams McCarthy for mocking Capitol physician, mask mandate Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections MORE (D-Ohio) and a likely announcement this week by Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellDOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's riot lawsuit Tech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push Justice in legal knot in Mo Brooks, Trump case 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 SandersDemocrats say they have the votes to advance .5T budget measure Millennial momentum means trouble for the GOP Briahna Joy Gray: White House thinks extending student loan pause is a 'bad look' 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 ButtigiegChasten Buttigieg: DC 'almost unaffordable' JD Vance takes aim at culture wars, childless politicians Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary MORE a transformational candidate?


Elsewhere on the 2020 scene … Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerHuman rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer 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 HarrisHarris's bad polls trigger Democratic worries Why in the world are White House reporters being told to mask up again? Want to improve vaccine rates? Ask for this endorsement 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 BidenFirst lady leaves Walter Reed after foot procedure Biden backs effort to include immigration in budget package MyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News 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: and 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.


In praise of Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Crunch time for bipartisan plan; first Jan. 6 hearing today Former Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi dies after bicycle accident Former Sen. Mike Enzi hospitalized after serious bicycle accident MORE, by Judd Gregg, opinion contributor, The Hill.


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 PompeoMike PompeoNoem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis Pence v. Biden on China: Competing but consistent visions 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.