The Hill's Morning Report - The fallout after Trump ousts top DHS officials

 

 

 

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



***   Who’s #1? The Hoos, that’s who. The Virginia Cavaliers won their first NCAA title over Texas Tech, 85-77, in overtime Monday night just a year after their shocking loss to 16-seed UMBC. De’Andre Hunter led the way for UVA with 27 points. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTed Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Ted Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Overnight Health Care: Democratic bill would require insurance to cover OTC birth control | House Dems vote to overturn ban on fetal tissue research | New rule aims to expand health choices for small businesses MORE (R-Texas) took in the thriller live from Minneapolis.  ***



President TrumpDonald John TrumpDC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' DC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' Mexico's immigration chief resigns amid US pressure over migrants MORE on Monday continued a remarkable purge of senior personnel at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which some in Washington likened to a “massacre,” unsettling lawmakers and observers from both parties.

 

Frustrated that he is tethered to existing immigration laws both in Congress and in the courts and has not succeeded in halting illegal immigration or Central American asylum seekers, Trump believes a new and “tougher” executive team will deliver different results heading into an election year.

 

Nudged out of DHS as of Monday: Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles (who told his colleagues in a letter that he knew for weeks that he would be departing a job he’s held for two years), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Francis Cissna and John Mitnick in the DHS Office of General Counsel. Other departures are expected (CNN).

 

Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump admin program sends asylum-seekers to await claims in Mexico, despite fears of violence: report Trump admin program sends asylum-seekers to await claims in Mexico, despite fears of violence: report Juan Williams: Cloud of illegitimacy hangs over Trump MORE, who was forced out on Sunday and will show up for her last day at the department on Wednesday at the end of a volatile 16-month tenure, told reporters she continues to defend Trump’s policies and what he views as a “crisis” at the southern border (The Associated Press).

 

Influential Trump adviser Stephen Miller, 33, helped shape the president’s view that taking a broom to top personnel in the department will improve outcomes. Miller’s fingerprints are expected to become more pronounced following Nielsen’s departure (The Hill). He’s described as “the lone survivor.”

 

In the near term, Trump’s decisions rattled members of Congress, set off alarms for many experienced candidates who might otherwise be tempted to succeed Nielsen, if called upon, and left an enormous and management-challenged department without a captain, a rudder or an engine room.

 

 

 

 

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonHillicon Valley: Lawmakers angered over Border Patrol breach | Senate Dems press FBI over Russian hacking response | Emails reportedly show Zuckerberg knew of Facebook's privacy issues | FCC looks to improve broadband mapping Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers angered over Border Patrol breach | Senate Dems press FBI over Russian hacking response | Emails reportedly show Zuckerberg knew of Facebook's privacy issues | FCC looks to improve broadband mapping Lawmakers demand answers on Border Patrol data breach MORE (R-Wis.) said he is concerned about a "leadership void” and said Congress should address immigration laws, although there is no evidence the GOP-led Senate has any intention of crafting a proposal before the 2020 elections.

 

 

 

 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Overnight Health Care: Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after complaints | 2020 Democrats to attend Planned Parenthood abortion forum | House holds first major 'Medicare for All' hearing MORE (R-Texas) lamented additional personnel “churning” inside the Trump executive branch: “I don’t think it helps the administration get their job done, to be sure, to have more vacancies rather than less, so I think that’s going to be a challenge,” he told reporters on Monday.

 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill MORE said he advised the administration to reconsider culling Homeland Security personnel, particularly Cissna, with whom he’s worked constructively. “He’s pulling the rug out from the very people that are trying to help him accomplish his goal,” the Iowa Republican told The Washington Post.

 

CNN: Trump, leading up to DHS purge and in search of migration deterrents, urged officials to ignore federal immigration, border laws.

 

The Associated Press: The president behind the scenes sought to close the El Paso port of entry last week before deciding to sweep DHS officials out.

 

The New York Times: The DHS personnel housecleaning appears to take aim at those associated with former Secretary John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, Trump’s second White House chief of staff.

 

Alexander Bolton reports that the Senate confirmation battles to fill a growing list of DHS vacancies will be politically incendiary. GOP senators are weighing how they can influence Trump’s future team to better moderate the president’s blast-furnace instincts about immigration, the border and relations with Mexico and with migrants.

 

That idea seems fanciful to outsiders looking at Trump’s management style when it comes to issues that interest him, but over which he cannot exert executive power alone to get his desired results. Potential nominees who can win Senate backing to lead the Homeland Security Department may be in short supply.

 

Trump tapped Kevin McAleenan, the current commissioner of Customs and Border Protection to serve as acting secretary, presenting him with transition hurdles and voids when it comes to important terrain, such as cybersecurity (The Hill).

 

New recruits at DHS will not single-handedly change the trajectory of Trump’s immigration policies as they continue to move through the courts. A federal judge on Monday, for example, blocked the administration’s policy to make asylum seekers wait in Mexico rather than the United States until the disposition of their cases (The Hill).

 

As Jordan Fabian reports, the president is on a tear beyond the Homeland Security Department to install loyalists in other agency posts where he finds fault with appointees’ performance, or with the media coverage their work or conduct attracts. From the Justice Department, to the IRS, to the Federal Reserve Board, the president is determined to name new appointees who support his policies and, in particular, are willing to vigorously defend him.

 

The Associated Press: Trump avoids “you’re hired” with acting appointments.



LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: House Democrats will have their first chance to grill Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump rips Democrats for contempt vote: 'Republicans will remember' Trump rips Democrats for contempt vote: 'Republicans will remember' The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle MORE on Tuesday morning when he appears before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies and is likely to be asked about the findings of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s report, which the Department of Justice has yet to release in full to Congress.

 

 

 

 

According to Morgan Chalfant, Barr is expected to be questioned about Mueller repeatedly during the hearing in what will be Congress’s first chance to ask Barr direct questions since he released a four-page memo on Mueller’s report, which has not been enough for Democrats. The hearing, which is supposed to be focused on the Justice Department’s budget, is a prelude to May 2, when the attorney general is expected to testify before the House Judiciary Committee after releasing a redacted version of Mueller’s report, which Democrats argue is insufficient. Barr has said he plans to release the version in mid-April.

 

The public hearing is slated for 9:30 a.m. He is also expected to testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday at 10 a.m.

 

The Associated Press: As Mueller release nears, White House renews attacks.

 

The Washington Post: “I’ve been battling Nadler for years”: Feud between Trump, Democrat rooted in decades-old New York real estate project.

 

> In another Trump-related fight, tensions are mounting in the fight over the president’s tax returns as the deadline set by Democrats for the IRS to provide the returns to a congressional committee approaches.

 

Naomi Jagoda reports that Trump’s supporters and surrogates have pushed back fiercely against the request, headlined by acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyOn The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill New poll finds little GOP support for spending cuts to specific federal programs MORE’s declaration on Sunday that Democrats will “never” obtain the returns. Trump has declined, just as he did during the 2016 campaign, by arguing that his returns are under audit.

 

Democrats are pushing back on Republicans’ criticisms of the request, saying the law is on their side. Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOn The Money: DOJ offers legal opinion backing refusal to release Trump tax returns | Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage | Trump bashes Powell ahead of crucial Fed meeting | Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill Justice releases legal opinion backing Treasury's refusal to release Trump tax returns Justice releases legal opinion backing Treasury's refusal to release Trump tax returns MORE (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, set the IRS’s deadline on Wednesday.

 

The Wall Street Journal: Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: DOJ offers legal opinion backing refusal to release Trump tax returns | Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage | Trump bashes Powell ahead of crucial Fed meeting | Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill On The Money: DOJ offers legal opinion backing refusal to release Trump tax returns | Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage | Trump bashes Powell ahead of crucial Fed meeting | Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill Justice releases legal opinion backing Treasury's refusal to release Trump tax returns MORE expected to be questioned today about Trump tax filings.

 

> House Democrats believe Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesDem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Steyer group targeting 12 congressional Democrats over impeachment MORE (D-N.Y.) is on the fast-track and has become the leading contender to succeed Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi hits Trump on health care: His 'cruel hypocrisy knows no bounds' Pelosi hits Trump on health care: His 'cruel hypocrisy knows no bounds' On The Money: DOJ offers legal opinion backing refusal to release Trump tax returns | Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage | Trump bashes Powell ahead of crucial Fed meeting | Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill MORE (D-Calif.) whenever that time may come. They praise his ability to stay on message, promote the party’s agenda and attack Trump in cataclysmic terms.

 

As Democrats prepare for their annual three-day retreat that kicks off Wednesday, Mike Lillis and Scott Wong report that Jeffries, a four-term lawmaker, has climbed quickly through the ranks in part by taking strategic political risks that bucked the party establishment even as he was rising through it.

 

USA Today: How Nancy Pelosi is leading divided Democrats through political turmoil, Trump's administration

 

In other congressional news … A pro-United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement group is launching an ad campaign against four lawmakers, including three freshman House Democrats, imploring them to support its passage (The Hill) … A 37-year-old Maine woman has been arrested for allegedly sending a threatening letter that contained a white powder to Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates Democratic challenger to Susan Collins announces Senate bid MORE (R-Maine) in October tied to her support for Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughDisclosure forms offer glimpse into Supreme Court's finances Disclosure forms offer glimpse into Supreme Court's finances Democratic challenger to Susan Collins announces Senate bid MORE’s nomination to the Supreme Court (ABC News).



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: In an unprecedented move, Trump declared Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist group on Monday as a way to increase economic and political pressure on Tehran, despite advice from U.S. military and intelligence officials that branding an Iranian military unit in that manner would invite other nations to use the designation against U.S. interests (The Washington Post).

 

Trump’s decision was also seen as a gift to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who faces voters in his country today in a hotly contested election in which Israel’s security is a central campaign issue.

 

Iran's top diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, responded on Monday by urging President Hassan Rouhani to place U.S. forces in the region on Tehran's list of "terrorist" groups (Agence France-Presse and France 24), and Rouhani obliged by assailing Washington’s “mistake” and naming the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) as a terrorist organization and the U.S. government as a sponsor of terror (Reuters).

 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe US must do its part in closing the largest outdoor prison in the world Trump rejects Iran's denial about attack on oil tankers, pointing to video Trump rejects Iran's denial about attack on oil tankers, pointing to video MORE told reporters the purpose of the designation was to compel Iran to deliver on demands identified by the Trump administration last year, such as “to get the Islamic Republic of Iran to do the simple thing like not launch missiles into Saudi Arabia, risking American lives each and every day.”

 

The New York Times: Trump’s policies have altered the contested landscape of the Middle East, making his stated goal of a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians more unattainable than ever.

 

> Federal Communications Commission (FCC): Meet Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who isn’t driving federal policy as much as speaking out about what she believes it should be. The Democrat has been a prominent advocate for many of the Obama-era policies that were rolled back by the current administration, and she’s a likely candidate to chair the FCC in a future Democratic administration (The Hill).

 

> Drug price advertising: Broadcasting and advertising groups are marching onto the battlefield against a controversial Trump administration proposal that would require drug companies to disclose prices to consumers in commercials. Critics think the administration’s approach could curb big-money television advertising, which does not sit well with ad-makers or television stations (The Hill).

 

> Baseball: The Trump administration on Friday scuttled Major League Baseball's historic agreement with the Cuban Baseball Federation, arguing that the sport's governing body is part of the Cuban government and that the agreement violates United States trade law (ESPN.com).

 

***

 

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: With a weeklong news cycle from hell in his rearview mirror, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe Biden22 presidential candidates to attend Clyburn's South Carolina fish fry 22 presidential candidates to attend Clyburn's South Carolina fish fry Young Turks founder says Democrats should avoid repeat of 2016 and pick a progressive MORE is moving forward with his planned 2020 bid and pushing to straddle the fence in an attempt to appeal to both moderate and progressive voters by labeling himself an “Obama-Biden Democrat.”

 

According to Amie Parnes, the 2020 Democratic front-runner’s strategy taps into white working-class men — who largely fled the Democratic Party in support of Trump in 2016 — plus the so-called Obama coalition which is made up of younger, female and minority voters.

 

Biden explained to reporters on Friday that "the vast majority of members of the Democratic Party are still basically liberal to moderate Democrats in the traditional sense," adding that he was an "Obama-Biden Democrat."

 

 

 

 

The Hill: Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAren't delirious Democrats now accusing Team Obama of treason? Trump won't say if he'd endorse Pence in 2024 HHS restores legal meaning of 'sex' — what will US Supreme Court, Congress do? MORE: I worry progressives may undercut Democratic allies.

 

Politico: Biden support stays solid in early states.

 

> Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellDemocratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement Democratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement Swalwell to pitch gun control plan near NRA headquarters MORE (D-Calif.) became the latest Democrat to officially toss a hat into the 2020 ring. He made the announcement on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Monday (The Associated Press):

 

“I see a country in quicksand, unable to solve threats from abroad, unable to make life better for people here at home. None of that is going to change until we get a leader who is willing to go big on the issues we take on, be bold in the solutions we offer and do good in the way that we govern. … I’m ready to solve these problems. I’m running for president of the United States.”

 

The Atlantic: Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisKamala Harris rallies with McDonald's workers striking for higher wages Kamala Harris rallies with McDonald's workers striking for higher wages 22 presidential candidates to attend Clyburn's South Carolina fish fry MORE takes her shot

 

Elsewhere on the political scene … Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data It's time to let Medicare to negotiate drug prices MORE (D-Minn.) announced she raised $5.2 million during the first fundraising quarter. Klobuchar outraised Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony Booker22 presidential candidates to attend Clyburn's South Carolina fish fry 22 presidential candidates to attend Clyburn's South Carolina fish fry Five takeaways from first Democratic debate lineup MORE (D-N.J.) by $200,000 despite announcing her 2020 bid 10 days after he did (Reuters) … Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersKamala Harris rallies with McDonald's workers striking for higher wages Kamala Harris rallies with McDonald's workers striking for higher wages Playing fast and loose with the economic facts MORE (I-Vt.) announced a five-state campaign swing this coming weekend, including stops in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — three states that were key to Trump’s 2016 victory (The Hill) … Booker became the first 2020 candidate to capture a New Hampshire legislative endorsement as he won the support of state Sen. Jon Morgan (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!



OPINION

Secretary Nielsen’s attempt to suck up to Trump ended badly. It always does, by Dana Milbank, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2D4JnxA

 

Designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as terrorists will have consequences for America, by James Durso, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2D2sTpK

 

Stephen Moore and Herman Cain would bring Trump turmoil to the Fed’s doorstep, by Evan Kraft, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2VwhPZ1



WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 10 a.m. to consider a bill to reverse the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality.

 

The Senate meets at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of Daniel Desmond Domenico to be a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs will question Pompeo at 2:30 p.m. about the State Department’s budget request and other matters.

 

The president welcomes Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to the White House for a bilateral meeting and an expanded working lunch (CNN).

 

Treasury’s Mnuchin testifies at 10 a.m. before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, and at 2 p.m. before the House Financial Services Committee.

 

The Committee on the Present Danger: China hosts a roundtable discussion about threats posed by China, from noon to 3 p.m., hosted by former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) at the Reserve Officers Association, 1 Constitution Ave. NE, Washington. Livestream of the event is HERE.



ELSEWHERE

Israel election: Netanyahu, who has been in power for a decade, today faces a career-threatening challenge from a unified centrist party headed by a team of former army chiefs as voters go to the polls. His startling announcement Saturday about Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank, which effectively scuttled hopes for a two-state solution in Middle East peace, appeared to be a last-ditch effort to rally his right-wing base and remain in office.

His leading opponent, centrist former army chief Benny Gantz, said Netanyahu’s 11th-hour pre-election surprise was an effort to save his own political skin in a tight race and in a climate in which he faces likely indictment on corruption charges, including bribery (The New York Times). Gantz cast his ballot this morning and urged Israelis to turn out to vote for “a new dawn, a new history” (The Associated Press).

 Netanyahu on Monday thanked his U.S. ally Trump, who has endorsed him, for declaring Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, a move that reinforced the prime minister’s frequent declarations that Iran and its nuclear capabilities are Israel’s biggest threat (The Associated Press). On Monday, Gantz and Netanyahu remained neck-and-neck in final polls (Al Jazeera) and analysts said the election outcome may not be clear until Wednesday.

 

Public health: A measles outbreak in the United States has spread to 19 states as cases spiked to 465, a jump of 100 confirmed infections in the last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of the cases are tied to one unvaccinated child from New York City. The initial child with measles was unvaccinated and acquired the disease during a visit to Israel (The Hill).

 

In the Know: “If I ran for president, would you vote for me?” Alec Baldwin asked his followers on Twitter, boasting on Monday that he could defeat the incumbent president with ease. It’s not the first time the Emmy-Award-winning actor and “Saturday Night Live” Trump impersonator has given presidential politics a long, semi-serious look, writes Judy Kurtz (The Hill).

 

 

 



THE CLOSER

And finally … Scientists believe nanoparticles can help keep opioid overdose victims alive. A single-dose antidote may help prevent fentanyl overdoses, according to research in which nanoparticles would slowly release the antidote naloxone over time, outlasting the powerful effects of deadly synthetic drugs that are tens to thousands of times stronger than morphine.

 

In mice, the new nanoparticle delivery system counteracted the pain-relieving effects of morphine for up to 96 hours after administering a single dose of the antidote, according to a researcher at the Allegheny Health Network Research Institute in Pittsburgh

(Science News).

 

The CDC reports that the nation is well into a third wave of its opioid crisis, which now features fentanyl. Deaths from the lethal pain-killer have doubled each year since 2013, and scientists hope a powerful delivery system for naloxone could save more lives.